Utah’s cannabis pharmacies debut drive-thru services

Medical cannabis pharmacies in South Ogden and Salt Lake City began offering drive-thru services this week, as retailers seek to protect vulnerable customers from exposure to the coronavirus.

The new option will offer a “safe alternative for high-risk patients to get the care they need as our country recovers from this pandemic,” Greta Brandt, president of True North Organics and Perfect Earth Modern Apothecary, said in a prepared statement.

Patients using the drive-thru at South Ogden’s Perfect Earth Modern Apothecary at 3775 S. Wall Ave. will still have to bring a medical cannabis card or a physician recommendation letter, according to a news release.

Narith Panh, chief strategy officer for Dragonfly Wellness, said his company’s cannabis pharmacy opened its drive-thru service to veterans on Memorial Day. It expanded the offering to pre-registered patients the following day.

“Now the people who are immunocompromised don’t even have to leave their car,” Panh said.

The state’s health department has issued guidance for cannabis pharmacies that want to set up a drive-thru or curbside pickup services. Customers can place an order ahead of time over the phone or online, according to the guidelines. But the transaction must take place on the pharmacy property, and any cash that changes hands must be taken into the building after each sale.

The pharmacy must have video surveillance that can capture each transaction and vehicle license plate and show the pharmacy employee verifying the customer’s identification.

The guidelines allow for minors to be present in the car.

Advocates have noted that medical cannabis patients are particularly at-risk during the pandemic because they are already suffering from the condition that qualified them for the plant-based substance — meaning they have an ailment such as cancer, HIV, AIDS or multiple sclerosis.

Perfect Earth is asking that patients upload recommendation letters to its website at perfectearthutah.com before arriving. Pharmacists will then confirm the patient letters with the person’s physician and then contact patients to let them know they’re approved to buy medical cannabis.

Customers will be able to review product menus at the drive-thru, although consultation will not be available at the window.

Panh said at Dragonfly Wellness, at 711 S. State Street in Salt Lake City, first-time customers can’t use the drive-thru because they need to do an in-person or virtual consultation with one of the business’s pharmacists.

Returning patients can place an order ahead of time by phone or by visiting the Dragonfly website and texting a representative, he added. They can then head to the drive-thru to pick up their cannabis purchase.

Perfect Earth, which began serving customers May 1, is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Dragonfly Wellness opened in March as the state’s first medical cannabis pharmacy, and its business hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Three of the state’s 14 permitted medical cannabis pharmacies are up and running in Utah’s fledgling marijuana program, with more expected to open up in coming months.