You probably won’t see the inside of Organic Alternatives for a while — at least not like you used to if you visited the Fort Collins marijuana shop.
When you get to the Old Town dispensary, you’ll likely be funneled into its cozy back parking lot and greeted by a bud tender for curbside pickup.
If you need to pay for your pickup order with cash, you’ll be doing so via a newly installed Plexiglas window near the business’ now-closed front entrance.
With Coloradans under a stay-at-home order through April 26, dispensaries across the state, like Organic Alternatives, are hustling to meet customer needs amid changing state regulations.
And these new additions — cloth-masked bud tenders standing expectantly in parking lots, Plexiglas barriers — may be the new normal for Colorado’s retail marijuana industry.
A week later, on March 30, the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division announced new industrywide guidelines allowing dispensaries to once again sell recreational marijuana inside their stores as long as strict social distancing requirements were being followed.
The new guidelines allow for online orders to be picked up outside of dispensaries but prohibit orders from being made outside. Cash is also no longer allowed for curbside pickup transactions, the guidelines state.
With each announcement, Fort Collins dispensaries have retooled their operations accordingly.
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Organic Alternatives closed for almost two weeks last month to buy time and come up with a plan to keep its customers and staff safe amid the spread of coronavirus, its owner, Steve Ackerman, said.
It reopened March 27, offering curbside-only service. When the state restricted curbside purchases to debit or credit cards on March 30, Ackerman had the Plexiglas window installed so customers could pay cash with limited contact.
Ackerman said every time he makes a change in keeping with new social distancing requirements — like his business’ addition of its Plexiglas window — they “are assuming that it is going to be a change that’s going to be in place for several months.”
“(We’re) no strangers to this whole business being a moving target,” Ackerman added, listing off challenges his dispensary has faced, including a short-lived 2011 ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in Fort Collins.
“We’ve changed and modified a number of times, so this is just the next thing that’s thrown at us,” Ackerman added.
Across Fort Collins, dispensaries seem to be instituting their own specific plans that fit within the state’s requirements and new guidelines. For Choice Organics, 813 Smithfield Drive, that means a move to online ordering with in-store pickup.
The east Fort Collins dispensary, like Organic Alternatives, closed temporarily to hatch a plan for its operations.
After reopening March 27, it offered curbside-only pickup. Since the state’s March 30 guidelines, the dispensary has shifted to letting customers and patients make orders online that can then be picked up in-store.
Once at the shop, only one customer is allowed in the dispensary lobby at a time. Transactions are made from behind a window in the lobby to limit face-to-face interactions, Choice Organics owner Erica Freeman said in an email to the Coloradoan.
“As a mom and pop shop, we are doing everything we can to protect or employees, customers and the community,” Freeman added.
Within 36 hours of the new guidelines being announced March 30, Fort Collins dispensary LivWell Enlightened Health, 900 N. College Ave., had installed Plexiglas “sneeze guard” walls in its main “budroom” before reopening for in-store recreational sales, according to Saskia Young, LivWell’s senior director of government and public relations.
By Thursday, the dispensary had also temporarily expanded its entry room to allow for more space to socially distance, Young added.
While LivWell does still offer online pre-orders, they decided to stop doing curbside pickup once those restrictions were relaxed. Instead, Young said they’ve since refocused on in-store sales while enacting “extreme” social distancing measures, like having an employee enforce 6-feet-apart rule.
“We’ll follow whatever guidance or bulletins are put out,” Young said. “I’m hopeful that given the industry’s compliance with social distancing, this is the status quo we’ll need to maintain.”
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Erin Udell reports on news, culture, history and more for the Coloradoan. Contact her at ErinUdell@coloradoan.com. The only way she can keep doing what she does is with your support. If you subscribe, thank you. If not, sign up for a subscription to the Coloradoan today.
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