Medical marijuana dispensary Johnstown

Blythe Huestis, president and director of retail operations for Beyond/Hello, welcomes customers to the Johnstown medical marijuana dispensary on its opening day, July 30, 2019.

Local medical marijuana providers are taking phone-in orders to expedite the pick-up process at their dispensaries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marijuana dispensaries, including Beyond/Hello and Harvest – both of which have locations on Main Street in downtown Johnstown

– are able to continue serving card-holders. Much like pharmacies, Gov. Tom Wolf included medical marijuana dispensaries among the limited number of “life-sustaining” operations that can continue to serve the public – a growing number of which have turned to various forms of cannabis for relief from anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome and nearly two dozen more qualifying conditions.

Like every other industry across the state, medical marijuana dispensary operators have had to adjust in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, according to Blythe Huestis, the vice president of retail operations for Jushi Holdings, which owns Pennsylvania’s Beyond/Hello shops.

“Fortunately, we’re a nimble industry so – working alongside the Department of Health – we’ve been able to quickly make adjustments,” she told The Tribune-Democrat.

Huestis said Beyond/Hello is taking the pandemic “very seriously,” taking steps to protect the public and staff from exposure while taking steps to limit the number of people who are inside the dispensary at any given time.

By adding phone-in orders for customers – those who have medical marijuana program cards and have made purchases from their dispensary before – the dispensary can limit crowding within the small store, she said.

The first hour of operation between Monday and Thursday – 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. – is being carved out solely for customers 50 years old and older.

“We want to protect patients who are at greater risk,” Huestis said.

Harvest has also added phone-in orders and has been directing customers to its website, https://covid19.harvesthoc.com, to keep customers up-to-date with its latest COVID-19 updates.

Some locations have been adding online orders but as of Tuesday, that was not available at its Johnstown, Reading or Harrisburg sites.

“We are only allowing a total of 10 people in one space at one time and maintain a 1:1 patient to employee relationship,” said Alex Howe, a Harvest spokesman. “We continue to diligently follow CDC recommended guidelines at all stores including rigorous prevention measures.”

Officials at Harvest and Beyond/Hello said efforts to sanitize their stores have been stepped up over the past few weeks.

Harvest acquisition

Arizona-based Harvest is taking another shot at expanding into the growing/processing field, announcing a deal to acquire Franklin Labs’ Reading operations, a growing facility inside a former Pepsi plant.

The deal was for $25 million – $15.5 million in cash and a $10 million promissory note, Harvest announced.

Pending approvals, Harvest hopes to expand the operation later this year.

“This accretive acquisition helps to alleviate supply constraints in a fast-growing market, while contributing to improved financial performance,” said Harvest CEO Steve White. “This investment in Pennsylvania is an important milestone in our plan to expand operations in key states and return to profitability.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @tddavidhurst.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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