Cannabis Manual: Coping With Covid

Dispensary Operations Have Changed

Gwynne Ann Unruh
4 min read
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Pandemics can be stressful. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming. Since the advent of COVID-19, dispensary sales of medicinal cannabis are way up across the state of New Mexico. Patients in the Medical Cannabis Program are seeking ways to cope with the additional stress COVID has brought into their lives, and dispensary staff are waiting to greet and support them with a smile on their faces—even if you can’t see it through their masks. Since the state gave them the essential mark, it’s been up to dispensaries to follow through with making the distribution of cannabis products compliant with Department of Health guidelines.

Knowing that dispensaries were still open during COVID had a huge impact on patients’ lives, according to Derrick Field, manager of the PurLife dispensary in Las Cruces. “Since we were lucky enough to be able to keep our doors open, we are striving to make sure to maintain control and take as many precautions as possible.” he said.

Field said patients coming to the dispensary want to “chit chat.” It’s an outing for them after much isolation. “They are just kind of enjoying the fact that they are out for a little bit.” he said. “They missed us. You can’t really go many places in your free and leisure time now. You can’t go to the mall, or the movies, or something like that. But hey, you can go to the cannabis dispensary.” He said they make sure they follow all the laws and regulations to keep everything as safe as it can be, given the situation. “Clients can place orders online, or they just show up, and we send an attendant out to them wearing gloves and a mask to take their order.” Patients also have the option of coming inside while wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing of six feet.

Field said many of the staff at the dispensary have known their patients for a long time. When they come in to shop, patients take the opportunity to decompress from many of the things that are weighing heavily on them as they pick up their medication. “We thought we were going to have a lot of pushback because we had such a large number of patients,” he said. “We thought that’d be something that would be difficult, but honestly it hasn’t slowed us down at all.”

Dispensary managers see the additional stress of COVID in patients’ lives as a driving factor in increased sales. Mark Hall, manager of the Albuquerque Minerva Canna dispensary on Gibson Blvd., said sales are booming since COVID. “Patients want to do extended stays at the dispensary, chatting, just enjoying the fact that they have been out of their home for an extended period of time.”

Ultra Health Producers, which operates dispensaries in New Mexico, had revenues of 6.1 million in the first quarter. Marissa Novel, chief marketing officer for Ultra Health said, all things considered, Ultra Life believes people are adapting well to the new challenges COVID-19 presented for all New Mexicans, medical cannabis patients and providers alike. “Thankfully, we have dedicated teams at all 20 of our stores that are taking extra precautions in sanitizing the dispensaries, practicing social distancing and offering curbside service upon request. We are extremely proud of the way our Ultra Health family has adapted to these rapid changes.”

Novel believes that the pandemic is not the only factor driving the rise in cannabis medical sales. “For many patients, the effects of COVID-19 were totally out of their control. Something Ultra Health can control, however, is giving more patients more access by dropping our prices to reflect patient needs during this difficult time while retaining quality standards.“ They have taken the initiative to lower their everyday price to $8.99 grams to make their medicine more affordable while maintaining the quality and potency. Novel also believes another driving factor in increased patients and the amount purchased is the fact that people enroll in the Medical Cannabis Program seeking a healthier alternative to treat their debilitating conditions and symptoms.

In cannabis dispensaries across New Mexico, signs remind those who do decide to visit the store in person not to touch the glass in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID. While it might seem somewhat overwhelming, patients have come to know that behind the protective shields, gloves and masks is someone who is concerned about their safety and is there to support and listen to them.
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