Measures Required to be Taken by the Medical Cannabis Industry Considering Executive Order 2020-029 and Circular Letter JRCM 2020-05

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Executive Order 2020-029 (the «EO»), effective as of March 31, 2020, extends the Government’s preventive measures until and including April 12, 2020, to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Like Executive Order 2020-023 (its predecessor), the EO provides, in Section 5, that businesses dedicated to the offer and provision of medications, medical equipment, supplies, pharmacies, and their respective supply chains are exempted from the provisions mandating the closing of businesses, subject to certain limitations and requirements discussed in detail below. Considering that the foregoing includes the medical cannabis industry, on March 31, 2020, the Puerto Rico Department of Health issued Circular Letter JRCM 2020-05 (the «CL») to provide further clarity to medical cannabis patients and professionals on the limits and scope of the EO.

What does the CL provide regarding the closing of businesses in the medical cannabis industry?

The CL provides that medical cannabis establishments will be able to continue cultivating, manufacturing, dispensing, dispatching, conducting quality tests, and transporting medical cannabis and products infused with medical cannabis during the EO’s term, and are thus excluded from the business closure decree. The CL further provides that all employees working in medical cannabis establishments and in the medical cannabis supply chain shall carry their occupational licenses and any other identification provided by the establishments at all times.

What times shall medical cannabis establishments open and/or operate?

The CL specifically provides that, until and including, April 12, 2020, medical cannabis dispensaries, manufacturing establishments, and laboratory and transportation dispatchers shall operate from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. from Monday to Saturday. Establishments which cultivate medical cannabis shall operate in reduced work hours and using only essential employees solely to guarantee the maintenance and care of medical cannabis plants. As previously stated, the operating schedule provided therein will remain in effect until April 12, 2020, and it will not be necessary for such businesses to inform the Medical Cannabis Office of the Department of Health (the «Medical Cannabis Office») of the change in their hours of operation.

What about sanitation requirements for medical cannabis dispensaries?

The CL provides that all medical cannabis dispensaries shall establish sanitary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (i.e. continuously disinfecting counters, bathrooms, general access and dispatching areas, etc.). Moreover, the CL states that all medical cannabis dispensaries are required to provide patients with mechanisms to use disinfectants. Employees shall also be required to wear face masks and gloves at all times.

Medical cannabis businesses are required to take adequate measures to minimize patient gatherings in their establishments. It is highly recommended that businesses inform their patients of the benefits of ordering through telephone calls or other electronic means that serve to reduce the time that the patient remains in the establishment. Notwithstanding, medical cannabis businesses are warned that, as instructed by Regulation No. 9038, medical cannabis and products derived from the same may only be sold or exhibited for sale within the restricted access area for dispensing the product, and may not be displayed outside said area or in a manner in which it may be visible from outside the premises. As such, medical cannabis dispensaries cannot sell, deliver, or display medical cannabis or its derivatives in the general access area or outside the establishment, through «drive-thru», or in any other manner contrary to the dispositions provided in Regulation No. 9038 and Act No. 42-2017.

Medical cannabis dispensaries have a term of five days, counted as of the CL’s publication, to file a written memorandum detailing preventive measures that they are implementing to minimize the conglomeration of patients in their facilities and to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 between patients and employees. This memorandum shall be filed to the following email:

What about occupational and establishment licenses expiring within the EO’s term?

Occupational licenses for medical cannabis expiring from March 15, 2020 until April 12, 2020 will be automatically extended for a term of fifteen calendar days, counted as of the date of the reopening of the Medical Cannabis Office, which will be timely announced.

Establishments whose operating licenses expire during the foregoing term and which have already applied for the renovation of the same (in compliance with Regulation No. 9038) but have not procured an administrative extension of time, will have an automatic extension of thirty calendar days.

Establishments whose license expires between April 1, 2020, and May 12, 2020 (and are required to file the paperwork thirty days in advance) will be allowed to file the paperwork after April 12, 2020 without the need of a written excuse.

Establishments which operate pursuant to an administrative term extension, and with a sixty-day term ending between March 16, 2020, and April 12, 2020, will have an automatic thirty-calendar-day extension.

What about the filing deadlines of trimestral reports?

The deadlines for trimestral reports to be filed in the Medical Cannabis Office will have an automatic extension of thirty calendar days.

What about administrative proceedings?

All administrative proceedings and hearings scheduled between March 16 and April 15 of 2020 are continued and will be rescheduled (new dates will be promptly informed). Parties that have a right to file a request for reconsideration and/or revision pursuant to Regulation No. 9038 whose deadline falls from March 15, 2020, until April 12, 2020, will have a term of twenty days, counted as of the opening of the medical cannabis office, to file the same.

All appointments scheduled with any medicinal cannabis office personnel are cancelled until further notice. Notwithstanding, inspectors will continue to execute their functions as they pertain to establishments.

What if a patient does not have a printed license and/or voucher on hand when procuring medical cannabis products?

The CL provides that medical cannabis dispensaries may use the web service to verify the term and effectiveness of a patient’s medical cannabis license.
The Department of Health’s Medical Cannabis Office will not be open to the public during the EO’s term. However, the CL provides that patients may procure and/or renew their medical cannabis licenses through the following portal: Doctors interested in procuring and/or renovating medical licenses to recommend medical cannabis may also access the foregoing web page to submit the required filings. Moreover, although the Medical Cannabis Office will not be open during the EO’s term, inspectors of the Department of Health will be working.

Source: Ferraiuoli LLC