Cannabis deemed essential by many states during COVID-19 crisis

A friend of mine posted that during these times the marijuana industry has done more to keep people safely inside their homes than our leaders have. Without opining on the intelligence of our leaders or their decisions, it is clear that she is at least partly right. The cannabis industry is playing a large role in people’s decisions to remain inside. Many people have reported using cannabis to get through the long days, and that it is the only thing keeping them cooped up inside. The days of “Netflix and Chill” are truly upon us.

The numbers also confirm this notion. Dispensaries from Alaska to Colorado have reported lines around the block, similar to those seen at supermarkets and drugstores around the country. Some are seeing a spike in sales of 33%, while others are reporting a 159% jump from the same time last year. One San Francisco dispensary reported having the biggest day of business since recreational sales began there in January of 2018.

Most noteworthy, however, has been the official treatment of dispensaries in this time when nonessential businesses are being forced to close across the country. Many states are announcing that cannabis businesses are to remain operational. Nevada and Colorado both issued advisories to dispensaries on how to observe social distancing, pushing companies to increase delivery operations. New York encouraged businesses to allow patients to schedule appointments in an effort to limit overcrowding. Illinois also exempted dispensaries from the list of non-essential businesses that must cease operations. In San Francisco, the city initially didn’t list cannabis businesses as essential, and its health department asked dispensaries to shut down. However, after outcry from the community and patients across the city, they reversed course and allowed dispensaries to remain open. Ultimately the California announced that cannabis business were deemed “essential”, allowing them to remain open statewide. Massachusetts allowed medicinal dispensaries to remain open, but ordered recreational dispensaries to close. However, they are an outlier in this respect.

Because not all states have made similar moves, the Marijuana Policy Project, a cannabis legalization organization, penned a letter to all 50 governors. They urge the leaders to declare medical cannabis businesses “essential” and ensure that they remain open during this crisis. The letter is signed onto by several reputable organizations, and can be found in its entirety here.

Think about what all of this means. States are not only declaring dispensaries to be essential businesses, but they are putting out guidelines as to how to expand remote services, maintain good business practices, and safely deliver cannabis to the consumer. Just a few years ago, this would have been unimaginable. The notion of a government deeming a dispensary to be an “essential business” would have seemed laughable. The thought of advising them on how to remain operational in a time of crisis seems even less likely.

In this time when everything seems chaotic, it is important that we take time to reflect on the good in our lives. It is important to remember the blessings we have, and to appreciate the times we are living in. The cannabis industry remains young, but it seems to have established itself as a legitimate industry in the minds of our leaders. This is something that should not be taken for granted. I encourage all to take a moment to think about this, and appreciate how far we’ve come.

Disclaimer: This article has been prepared and published for informational and educational purposes only and is not offered or intended, nor should it be construed, to be legal advice.

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