The below discussion is an analysis of the current legal environment in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic. This analysis highlights the ability of both medical and retail marijuana businesses to continue operating in light of several emergency orders from the State of Illinois and emergency variances from regulatory agencies. This summary is not a legal opinion, but rather, a perspective and analysis of such emergency rules and orders. The content provided herein is subject to change as the laws and interpretation of such laws change.
Below is a summary of the current status of Governor Pritzker’s Executive Orders, regulatory variances, and guidance updated as of March 31, 2020. For convenience, a link to all referenced information can be found at the end of this summary.
On January 7, 2020, the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) released applications for three types of Adult Use Marijuana operational licenses. Applications for Craft Growers, Infusers, and Transporters were scheduled to be accepted in person in Chicago or Springfield from February 14, 2020 through March 16, 2020. This deadline for submission was previously extended through March 30, 2020.
On March 28, 2020 Governor JB Pritzker issued an Executive Order extending this deadline through April 7, 2020 – the last day of the current Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation. This deadline may be extended through April 30, 2020 upon renewal of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation.
The Executive Order further directed the IDOA to accept applications by mail. Importantly, applications must be post marked by April 30, 2020.
Applications for Adult Use Dispensing Organizations were accepted by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) through January 2, 2020. As of now there is no indication that the IDFPR’s May 1, 2020 scoring deadline to issue these licenses will be extended.
On March 20, 2020, licensed medical cannabis businesses were granted a renewal variance by the IDPFR Acting Director. All medical cannabis license renewals due from March 1, 2020 through July 31, 2020 are entitled to an extension under this variance. Licensees with renewal deadlines that fall within this period have through September 30, 2020 to complete these renewals.
Pursuant to Executive Order 2020-10 issued by Governor Pritzker on March 20, 2020, cannabis production, licensed medical and adult use cannabis dispensaries, and licensed cannabis cultivation centers were considered “Essential Businesses and Operations.” As such, these businesses may continue operations and shall comply with Social Distancing Requirements where possible. Executive Order 2020-10 requires the following Social Distances Requirements, where possible:
- Designate six-foot distances. Designating with signage, tape, or by other means six-foot spacing for employees and customers in line to maintain appropriate distance;
- Hand sanitizer and sanitizing products. Having hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available for employees and customers;
- Separate operating hours for vulnerable populations. Implementing separate operating hours for elderly and vulnerable customers; and
- Online and remote access. Posting online whether a facility is open and how best to reach the facility and continue services by phone or remotely.
IDFPR inspectors will continue monitoring all dispensaries on camera to ensure compliance with Social Distancing Requirements and added the following requirements:
- Any surfaces patients are required to touch, such as ordering tables or door handles, must be disinfected every 30 minutes.
- All other surfaces should be washed throughout the day, including disinfecting at least once per day all countertops, computer screens/keyboards, door handles, railings and bathrooms.
Although a March 16, 2020 IDPFR variance temporarily authorized businesses to conduct transactions outside the limited access areas, the variance expired on March 30, 2020 and has not been renewed.
Delivery is not authorized under Illinois laws and regulations governing medical or adult use cannabis. However, Illinois State Representative, Sonya Harper, introduced a bill in February 2020 that would allow marijuana businesses to deliver marijuana to both medical patients and recreational customers. The bill has been referred to the House rules committee.
Examinations by physicians for Medical Cannabis Certification are authorized to be conducted by telemedicine until further notice. No in-person examinations will be required.
To learn more about the impact of COVID-19 outbreak on your cannabis businesses, please contact Alyssa Samuel, Steve Levine, Megan Herr or your Husch Blackwell attorney. Husch Blackwell will continue to provide updates upon additional information. Husch Blackwell has launched a COVID-19 response team providing insight to businesses as they address challenges related to the coronavirus outbreak. The page contains programming and content to assist Illinois Marijuana Industry clients and other interested parties across multiple areas of operations, including labor and employment, retailing, and supply chain management, among others.
Illinois Executive Order 2020-17
Illinois Executive Order 2020-10
IDFPR COVID Guidance for Cannabis Dispensaries, March 17, 2020
Medical Cannabis Renewal Variance
Medical Cannabis Limited Access Variance
 Illinois Executive Order 2020-17
 Illinois Executive Order 2020-17
 Medical Cannabis Renewal Variance
 Illinois Executive Order 2020-10(12)and (7)
 Illinois Executive Order 2020-10(2)
 Illinois Executive Order 2020-10(15)
 IDFPR COVID Guidance for Cannabis Dispensaries, March 17, 2020
 Medical Cannabis Limited Access Variance