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Medical weed can now be sold outside pot shops — while some stores halt recreational sales — as coronavirus fears hit cannabis industry

“Our top priority is to minimize the risk of and protect as many people as possible from exposure to COVID-19,” said Toi Hutchinson, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s senor adviser for cannabis control.

Customers wait outside Sunnyside, a pot dispensary in Wrigleyville. Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

Officials announced Tuesday that cannabis retailers can sell medical pot outside dispensaries until the end of the month to protect patients who may be susceptible to the coronavirus.

Dispensaries are permitted to sell medical cannabis products on their property, as well as on adjacent sidewalks or curbs until March 30, according to new guidance from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

“Our top priority is to minimize the risk of and protect as many people as possible from exposure to COVID-19,” said Toi Hutchinson, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s senior adviser for cannabis control. “These steps prioritize that critical objective, while also ensuring medical patients have access to the medicine they need.”

Patients in the state’s medical cannabis and opioid alternative programs and chosen caregivers will be able to purchase pot under the new guidance, while recreational customers will have to continue shopping inside.

Shops are also being advised to keep customers six feet apart by moving lines outside, closing cash registers and minimizing the time workers stand near customers. Employees should wear gloves while handling cash, frequently wash their hands and avoid asking patients to physically hand over their medical cards to be scanned, the IDFPR said.

Though pot deliveries are prohibited under state law, many stores have started encouraging customers to make orders online to expedite the shopping experience. Dispensaries that largely accept cash only will also be able to process transactions outside, allowing for curbside pick-ups.

Meanwhile, at least eight Illinois dispensaries have shut down adult-use sales to prioritize medical pot patients and others have limited the hours recreational users can shop. Among them are The Herbal Care Center on the Near West Side, MOCA Modern Cannabis in Logan Square and Dispensary 33 in Uptown.

”We understand that not everyone with a medical need has a medical card, but until further notice we can only serve medical patients,” Dispensary 33 posted on Twitter Monday.

Cresco Labs, the largest Illinois pot firm, will continue selling recreational cannabis at its four dual-use stores across the state, including at its store in Lake View.

“We feel that we need to continue to provide access for everyone that relies on cannabis for their daily well being, whether they’re a card carrying patient or not,” said Cresco spokesman Jason Erkes. “But we’ll obviously follow whatever state guidelines and mandates are put in place.”