At their June 2022 public meeting the Cannabis Control Commission decided to extend the telehealth and medical curbside pickup waivers that were set to expire on June 30th. Since March of 2020 the Commission has allowed healthcare providers to apply for waivers to issue initial certifications to new patients via telehealth. Curbside pickup was also introduced during the pandemic to facilitate patient access to medicine with limited exposure to COVID. The Executive Director explained that the Commission has engaged with stakeholders including healthcare providers, patients, and patient advocates who have all asked for these waivers to be extended.
Chair Kim asked Executive Director Collins if staff had any recommendation on how long the Commission may want to extend the telehealth waiver. “I would say that the Commission has options here,” Executive Director Collins responded, “We’re not outside of a pandemic environment at all and this does seem to be a tool that patients and providers would like to use and would still want to use. I would say the Commission has options between a three/six month window.”
During the discussion Commissioners made reference to a letter they had received from patient advocates that included recommendations. “I know the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance sent us a letter and one of their points was that we could extend until municipal outreach meetings are no longer web-based,” Chair Kim told her fellow Commissioners, “The other one is to extend until the Commission itself is working in person at their headquarters in Worcester.” Commissioner Stebbins told the Commission that he supports an extension of these waivers through the end of 2022. Commissioner Roy also supported the extension but asked staff to look into establishing a data driven metric that could be helpful in future discussions on this topic.
On the topic of curbside pickup Executive Director Collins explained that 31 medical dispensaries are currently authorized to conduct curbside pickup operations. Curbside pickup allows medical dispensaries to dispense cannabis to individuals who remain parked and in their vehicle which can help reduce the risk of in-person exposure to COVID-19. Commissioner Concepcion questioned whether the circumstances that created these waivers still in existence. “For some people, yes.” Executive Director Collins explained, “It is troubling to say two years into it I don’t know if we are in the middle, on the back end, or where we are in the lifespan of a pandemic.” The Commission ultimately decided to vote unanimously to extend the telehealth and curbside pickup waivers until December 31st, 2022.