As state governments curb commerce to stop the spread of Covid-19, cannabis dispensaries are generally being categorized as essential infrastructure – listed alongside pharmacies as too important to close. Even recreational retailers are remaining open because some patients purchase their cannabis there. All this, despite marijuana remaining on the federal government’s Schedule One list of harmful substances defined as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use.”
In California’s Bay Area, which was among the earliest to come under heavy restrictions in the wake of the pandemic, some counties allowed marijuana retailers to stay open with social distancing in place, while other counties allowed only pick-up or delivery. On Friday March 20, Governor Gavin Newsom listed cannabis retail workers as “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.”
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced on March 23, that all non-essential commerce would close starting Tuesday March 24 at noon. The list of essential services included “licensed medical marijuana retailers.” He halted sales of recreational cannabis because it draws in people from nearby states where cannabis is not legal for adult use.
Illinois is also keeping its cannabis industry up and running.
In Washington State, where the Covid-19 hit early, “workers supporting cannabis retail and dietary supplement retail,” were listed among essential businesses by Governor Jay Inslee in his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” degree of March 23.
People appeared to be buying extra, just in case. “Every cannabis retailer I talked to last week has seen a substantial rise in sales,” said Greg James, publisher of the business magazines Marijuana Venture and Sun Grower. Most of the sellers are saying their customers fear shortages and are stocking up because of uncertainty, James said.
Sales of cannabis in Washington State two weekends ago were up 23% Friday, 14% Saturday and 33% Sunday from the previous weekend according to Leafly.com. One Seattle pot shop, Uncle Ike’s, had a line stretching around the block. Part of that was the admonition from the state for all retail to operate at 50% capacity to accommodate social distancing, but buyers might also have been nervous that shops were going to close as the drumbeat of restrictions were issued.
Retailers are adapting. At the Tonasket House of Cannabis stores in Washington State, special store hours are being set aside for seniors and other customers who are at high risk from Covid-19, and hand washing stations have been installed at the entrances.
Now, at least one source of pandemic-related stress, the question “Will pot shops stay open?” has mostly gone away.
Cannabis flower – Schedule One drug or Essential infrastructure? Apparently both.
Julie Weed Source