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Michigan marijuana dispensaries adapt to provide relief for patients and customers amid coronavirus pandemic 

click to enlarge River Rouge’s Herbology has implemented new safety procedures to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Courtesy of Herbology

River Rouge’s Herbology has implemented new safety procedures to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

You've stocked up on the essentials to survive a pandemic: Toilet paper, canned food, hand sanitizer, and masks.

But for many of us, you can't forget marijuana.

Cannabis can combat anxiety, pain, illnesses, and yes, boredom.

Luckily, in Michigan, dispensaries are still permitted to sell recreational and medical cannabis because the industry has been deemed "essential."

To protect patients, customers, and employees, Michigan has prohibited in-store purchases and given dispensaries two options: curbside pickup and delivery.

The young recreational industry has wasted no time adapting. To limit person-to-person interactions, dispensaries have updated their websites for online orders. Employees typically don gloves and masks, and wipe off packages with disinfectant.

At Herbology in River Rouge, delivery has taken off. The dispensary employs a team of four drivers to deliver cannabis products to customers within a 25-mile radius to deliver a wide array of flower, edibles, concentrates, and vape cartridges to medical patients and recreational customers.

The dispensary began its delivery service in mid-February, a few weeks before Gov. Gretchen Whitmer instituted a stay-at-home order to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Since then, calls for delivery have increased about four-fold, from about 25 a day on the weekends to more than 100, says Herbology owner Tarek Jawad.

"Our drivers are constantly on the road," Jawad tells Metro Times. "We barely see them."

At Jawad's other dispensary in River Rouge, Herbal Healing Provisioning, delivery service began about two weeks ago. The dispensary also has a unique feature to limit person-to-person interactions — a drive-through service.

The building that houses the medical dispensary was previously a bank with a full-service drive-through.

"It's so easy and convenient," Jawad says. "We're doing everything possible to make it convenient and positive for our patients."

The streamlined process has its perks. Fast transactions, no fuss.

click to enlarge ANNA AICHINGER
  • Anna Aichinger

"I kinda like it this way," Aaron Porter tells Metro Times. "You order online, and they bring it to your car. "You don't have to wait in line."

But not all customers are like Porter. For newer marijuana consumers, the menus can be overwhelming. There are dozens of flower varieties, and a plethora of edibles, concentrates, and tinctures. Each offers something a little different.

At The Greenhouse in Walled Lake, owner Jerry Millen has been asked a lot about the ideal products to beat stress and anxiety.

"A lot of people are stressed out; they're stuck in the house," Millen tells Metro Times. "They need a little bit of relief, and cannabis can help with that."

Millen often suggests a cannabis-infused gummy or an indica-dominant strain of flower, which typically has a calming effect. He's even considering creating a pre-rolled joint mixed with indica-dominant strains designed to combat anxiety during the pandemic "because stress levels are so high," he says.

Amid the outbreak, dispensaries are playing an important role in offering relief for people with medical conditions because hospitals and health clinics are overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.

In a letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in mid-March, the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association (MCIA) emphasized that dispensaries are "essential" for providing an alternative to traditional medicine.

"Our medical system needs to be available to prioritize the coronavirus pandemic and must not be bombarded by medical marijuana patients returning for traditional treatment in case they lose access to their medical cannabis," MCIA Executive Director Robin Scheider wrote in the letter.

Millen and other dispensary owners say they're grateful that the state acknowledged the importance of dispensaries because patients are relying on cannabis for a variety of medical conditions.

"There are people who really need this," Millen says. "It is a medicine, and it's important that people still have access to it."

Millen fields questions from customers and patients over the phone and via email. He says he answers everyone's questions.

"We have to take this seriously," Millen says. "This is not the time to worry about making money."

The Greenhouse has streamlined its ordering process to make it easy for customers to pick up their products while waiting in their cars. Millen says he hasn't started delivery services yet because he first wants to ensure the safety of his employees.

At From the Earth in Hanover, Mich., the demand for curbside pickup is strong, says Nic Hohne, operations manager of the dispensary.

"A lot of people were concerned we wouldn't be open," Hohne tells Metro Times. "We're having meetings daily and updates to make sure we're very clean. We've taken everything very seriously. I think the patients appreciate that. It's a community, and everyone is coming together."

It's a new era for marijuana in Michigan. Sign up for our weekly weed newsletter, delivered every Tuesday at 4:20 p.m.

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