The legal cannabis industry is hoping that state and local governments will consider dispensaries and other facilities “essential” — and thus, allowed to stay in operation — as businesses across the country close during the coronavirus pandemic, The Street reports.
Across the country, millions of businesses are shuttered, in efforts to stem the advancing coronavirus pandemic. Bars, restaurants, theme parks and other places where Americans usually congregate are shuttered, and people are staying home. In some places, the only businesses that Americans can patronize are “essential” ones, like grocery stores and pharmacies.
Perhaps not surprisingly, those in the cannabis industry would like to keep their own doors open, both at the retail shops where it’s sold to consumers, and in the greenhouses and farms where it’s grown.
Of course, the answer to the question of whether or not cannabis is an “essential” product that Americans should have access to during a quarantine depends largely on whom you ask.
Industry player Kris Krane notes that Americans can buy all the beer and wine they want during the quarantine, in order to use alcohol’s psychoactive effects to take their minds off of their troubles. So why shouldn’t cannabis users be allowed to partake?
“For many cannabis consumers, marijuana is an important tool for de-stressing. Many Americans would argue that access to alcohol during an incredibly stressful time for themselves and the nation is essential to their well-being,” he says, further noting that cannabis isn’t know to cause negative side-effects like aggression, domestic violence, and hangovers.
Beyond recreational use, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) notes that for many Americans, cannabis is an essential medicine that treats pain, anxiety, and other ailments.
“Many of these patients are among our more vulnerable populations, it is essential that they maintain uninterrupted, regulated access to lab-tested products during this time,” says NORML executive director Erik Altieri, noting that patients will just try to get their cannabis on the black market if legal dispensaries are shuttered.
It seems that the plan to have the cannabis business treated as “essential” during the coronavirus pandemic is working, at least in some areas.
In Arizona and Washington, for examples, dispensaries are legally considered something akin to medical clinics, and state law deems that medical clinics can remain open during certain emergencies.
Similarly, in California, where residents of several counties are under shelter-in-place orders, cannabis is considered essential and the business is allowed to continue operating.
In Michigan, however, the issue remains undecided. However, a consortium of cannabis businesses has asked the state’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, to deem the cannabis industry “essential” as it considers locking down other businesses.