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Dispensaries go to online reservation system for recreational patients amid COVID-19 concern

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Thrive co-owner Gorgi Naumovski talks on Feb. 22, 2016, about products at his cannabis dispensary in Harrisburg. 

CARBONDALE — Like most businesses that are still open, cannabis retailers have had to find creative ways of keeping both customers and workers safe amid the COVID-19 crisis.

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Both The Harbory and Thrive dispensaries in Southern Illinois posted online this week that, to limit the spread of COVID-19 virus, they would be changing up their normal way of selling recreational products to patients.

Previously, customers would stand in line and be taken into the dispensary a few at a time — at The Harbory, this meant standing in line outside before being taken into a waiting room and eventually taken into the actual dispensary. But, because this caused people to stand so close to one another, this policy was ended. The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention recommend social distancing of at least 6 feet.

Instead, beginning earlier this week, Harbory customers would take a number and wait in their cars to be called in to purchase products, with medical patients still taking priority.

Now, both Harbory and Thrive are offering an online reservation system for recreational users.

At Thrive, customers have about an hour to pick up an order — because payment for cannabis products is cash only, the orders are paid for upon pickup. The Harbory’s system provides a pickup time window for purchasers.

These measures are meant to keep both staff and patients safe.

“At any given time we would have at least 30 people (in line),” Gorgi Naumovski, co-owner of Thrive, said Friday of previous lines. He said this meant, on peak days, the dispensary would serve around 650 people a day. With the new procedure in place, that number has dropped.

“With the new process we really limit it probably between 200 and 300 people,” he said.

Naumovski, along with Pam Althoff, executive director of the Cannabis Businesses Association of Illinois, said they have been given direction from the governor’s office that cannabis dispensaries are being considered “essential,” in much the same way pharmacies and grocery stores are.

“I know that they will continually consider medical cannabis an essential service,” Althoff said Friday. “It is the intent to still allow access to recreational product.”

However, she said, that is still subject to change.

“I think that all conditions are subject to daily and hourly review dependent upon where the conditions of the coronavirus lead us,” Althoff said.

Althoff said she knows there are recreational patients who are choosing to purchase products to treat medical conditions without going through the process of getting their medical card, which makes keeping recreational cannabis sales open an important point.

Naumovski said he and his team are doing all they can to stay safe while serving the public, including having a professional cleaning service come this weekend to disinfect the facility.

“All we can do is be diligent,” he said.


On Twitter: @ismithreports


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