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Marijuana Deemed “Essential” by US Cities and States Amid Coronavirus Crisis
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If you needed anymore proof that people actually need weed, well, here it is.
Published on March 19, 2020

[UPDATE: March 31, 2020. More US jurisdictions have deemed cannabis businesses as "essential services." A list of these places can be found below. MERRY JANE will update this list as this story develops. If a state, city, or county is missing from the list, please email [email protected]]

Enlightened cities and states across the US have officially declared cannabis businesses as “essential services,” meaning they can keep operating during the coronavirus pandemic.

Authorities in San Francisco, California, ordered the city to enforce a “shelter-in-place” policy this week, requiring everyone to stay home unless they work for or provide an “essential service” necessary for society to function. Essential services include healthcare, public utilities, and emergency response. And now, according to Bay Area officials, providing cannabis to the public counts as an essential service, too.

"In terms of the cannabis dispensaries, the Department of Public Health today clarified that since cannabis has medical uses, dispensaries will be allowed to operate as essential businesses, just as pharmacies are allowed to do," San Francisco’s Mayor London Breed said in a press conference.

However, pot shops cannot conduct business as usual, NPR reported. They must observe social distancing rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the deadly respiratory illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. That means employees and customers must stay at least six feet apart from another when possible, and everyone should liberally apply hand sanitizer if it’s available.

On Wednesday, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order that closed non-essential services, but also declared that all essential services should remain open. A representative from Gov. Cuomo’s office clarified to NPR that the executive order included medical marijuana dispensaries, since New York’s licensed pot shops “are essential medical providers.”

Also on Wednesday, Nevada’s Governor Steve Sisolak ordered all non-essential services to close. Dispensaries could remain open if their owners chose to, but employees must observe new emergency rule.

“Employees have been asked to prioritize their health and the health of the community and to remain home if they show or feel any signs of illness,” read a statement from The Source dispensary, according to the Las Vegas Sun. “Customers will no longer be able to take part in smelling flower before purchasing, as the flower displays are no longer available to prevent the spread of germs.”

Other states such as Illinois, Michigan, and Colorado have also implemented emergency rules so cannabis stores can keep selling weed while minimizing the spread of the coronavirus. 

Over the past two weeks, local governments forced the closures or cancelations of various non-essential services, such as theme parks, concerts, and conventions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, organizers are even canceling 4/20 events that are still a month away. 

Health officials believe that the novel coronavirus is 10 to 30 times more lethal than the common flu. Most deaths from the coronavirus have occurred in patients over the age of 50, and conditions such as diabetes, emphysema, some neurological disorders, and heart complications increase the risk of death.

Regardless, if you’re going to stock up on pot before the inevitable lockdowns kick in, you should probably do it soon. However, if possible, get your weed delivered to you, if deliveries are available in your state.

A List of US Jurisdictions That Have Declared Marijuana as "Essential"

California 

New York State

Colorado (telemedicine doctor recommendations temporarily restored, too)

Nevada (delivery only)

Ohio

Pennsylvania

Illinois

Massachusetts (medical only)

New Mexico

Connecticut

Maryland

New Jersey

Oregon

Michigan

Washington State

Maine

Delaware

Rhode Island

Arizona

Florida

Hawaii

Louisiana

Oklahoma

Utah

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Randy Robinson
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Based in Denver, Randy studied cannabinoid science while getting a degree in molecular biology at the University of Colorado. When not writing about cannabis, science, politics, or LGBT issues, they can be found exploring nature somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Catch Randy on Twitter and Instagram @randieseljay
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