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Serving Hudson County’s medical marijuana patients amid the pandemic

Harmony Dispensary in Secaucus has been operating via contactless, curbside pickup

Medical marijuana can help ease anxiety caused by the pandemic. Photos by Harmony Dispensary.

Medical marijuana dispensaries were designated as essential under Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order.

Kristal Marko is a supervisor at the Harmony Dispensary in Secaucus. Her duties include staff oversight, resolving issues, handling customer service, and scheduling employees.

She said operations at the dispensary have only been growing, despite the economic downturn due to COVID-19. Like other businesses, Harmony has had to change some things to protect the health and safety of patients and staff.

Contactless, curb-side pickup

The dispensary has shifted from indoor transactions to serving patients without direct contact.

“Since the pandemic, we’ve instituted a contactless curbside pickup system to protect the patients and the staff,” Marko said. “Patients now submit their orders online, and we prepare them the day before their scheduled appointment.”

An employee is stationed outside with a mask, gloves, and a basket used to carry a patients’ payment method and medical marijuana card before receiving their orders.

“Anytime we interact with patients, we use a basket to collect their money and medical card, and we sanitize that whenever it’s touched by anyone,” Marko said.

After collecting the payment and medical card, the basket is taken to the curbside window. Payment method and the medical card are collected and returned to the basket, where the medicine is placed.

Everything is returned to patients without their having to leave their cars.

Marko said the process ensures that when patients arrive, their medicine is ready to go.

Kristal Marko (top row, second from left) and the Harmony team.

Growing staff, growing patients

Marko said that Harmony is hiring more staff as business grows.

“Luckily we had adequate staff,” Marko said. “We’re actually continuing to hire new staff so we can accommodate new patients and take on more consultations.”

Marko said the staff has always had the proper protective equipment.

“We make every effort to social distance,” Marko said. “We wear masks and gloves at all times.”

According to Marko, a lot of new patients are being added to the program.

Anxiety and COVID-19

“I would say the program has been growing steadily ever since it [the pandemic] started,” Marko said. “But I don’t necessarily think the pandemic has created an uptick.”

And while Marko denied a correlation between the pandemic and an uptick in medical marijuana patients, she said that the virus may be causing increased anxiety among those who suffer from the disorder.

“I do think there is a lot of anxiety about the pandemic, and the medicine that we provide helps to ease the anxiety in those patients,” Marko said. “So I can see that that’s a contributing factor to our anxiety patients.”

Addressing social media controversy

In 2019, a post circulated on social media by a person claiming to be a former employee of the dispensary. The post shared video of what were allegedly sanitation shortcomings, including what appear to be water drains covered in what is alleged to be grease and an alleged worm in a sink.

In response, Harmony Dispensary CEO Shaya Brodchandel released a statement defending the operations.

“Our mission at Harmony Dispensary is to produce the safest and highest-quality medicinal cannabis possible in our state-of-the-art facility,” Brodchandel said.

Brodchanel noted that the dispensary works closely with the Department of Health to remain fully compliant. The department regularly tours the facility, which has passed all inspections.

“Video shared last year on social media was posted by a disgruntled formeremployee,” Brodchandel said. “The footage is presented out of context and posted with deliberate misinformation.”

Curbside until further notice

There have been no updates as to when medical marijuana dispensaries will be able to reopen indoor operations.

New Jersey is currently one of few states showing progress against the virus. However, Gov. Murphy recently reversed a decision that would allow indoor dining to resume, putting a halt to Phase 2 of reopening.

According to Marko, most important is “being able to meet the needs of the patients so we can give them the medicine they need.”

For more information, visit https://www.harmonydispensary.org/home.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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