Cannabis legality continues to be fractured across the country. More than three dozen states have legalized medical cannabis; eighteen have opened the door to recreational use. Each of those states manages cannabis according to its own rules and regulations. Those rules and regulations touch everything from production to processing and home delivery.
Home delivery has recently become a hot topic in some medical-only states. In Utah, for example, the state legislature cleared the way for home delivery in early 2021. Lawmakers saw it as an essential step in assisting medical cannabis patients living in rural parts of the state.
Utah is also an example of a state learning how to navigate medical cannabis on-the-fly. Just as medical cannabis itself was new to the Beehive State two years ago, home delivery is something they have never dealt with before. They can look to other states like Colorado and California, but they have their own concerns about managing home delivery while keeping cannabis confined to medical use.
Purchasing from Licensed Pharmacies
Medical-only states tend to mandate that all cannabis products be bought from licensed pharmacies. Such states also tend to limit pharmacy licenses to a comparatively small number. Utah, for example, only has fourteen pharmacies to date.
The fact that so many Utahans live in rural locations makes it clear that having just fourteen pharmacies, most of which are located in the state’s major urban centers, is inadequate. Beehive Farmacy, a Utah dispensary, says medical marijuana delivery is the answer. But are urban pharmacies willing to go to the outer edges of the state to serve rural customers?
There is at least one Utah company willing to cover the entire state with home delivery service. But because the program is still brand-new, it is hit or miss. Even those in the most rural parts of the state, if they can get home delivery, may have to wait days for their cannabis products to arrive.
Warehouses and Distribution Centers
One way to address the limited availability problem is to allow pharmacies to set up remote warehouse and distribution centers. And if that is impractical or cost-prohibitive, lawmakers could license delivery services separate from pharmacies. The delivery services could then contract with multiple pharmacies to handle all their deliveries.
Consolidating delivery service would make it more financially viable to set up remote warehouses and distribution centers. Drivers could be hired locally rather than all having to originate in a major urban center and fan out from there.
Other Home Delivery Concerns
Covering remote areas of a state is effectively managed through proper logistics. But what of the other concerns lawmakers in medical-only states tend to have? For example, what about security?
Regulations pertaining to security are unavoidable. So medical-only states already require that certain kinds of unmarked vehicles be used. They mandate limits on the amount of cannabis a delivery vehicle can carry at one time. Most importantly, states can and should work on ways to provide electronic payment solutions. The last thing they want is for delivery drivers to be carrying around tens of thousands of dollars in cash.
Medical-only states can make home delivery work if they are willing to be open-minded and flexible. It is a matter of lawmakers working with industry partners to figure out how to best serve patients in the safe and efficient manner. Solutions are out there. They just have to be found. And once they are, there should no longer be a reason that rural patients have to drive long distances to get their medicines.