COVID-19 Update: Dispensaries Seen as Essential Service Providers

As the global COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic unfolds in real-time and at lightning speed, official policy is proving to be something of a moving target. But after an unprecedented statewide shelter in place order, California’s two largest population centers—Los Angeles and the Bay Area—have recognized cannabis dispensaries as essential businesses.

Elsewhere, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and some Colorado municipalities are allowing dispensaries to remain open, though—as we’ve reported previously—most are mandating dispensaries institute social-distancing protocols such as online-only ordering and curbside pickup.

Covid-19 Update Dispensaries Increasingly Seen as Essential Service Providers

Given the essential role of cannabis medicine in many citizens’ healthcare regimens, this is a major victory not only for dispensary operators but for national cannabis advocates. Here’s a rundown of affected areas thus far.

Dispensaries Seen as Essential: California

In the Golden State—the largest legal cannabis market in the world—it’s been a topsy-turvy week. The shelter-in-place order instituted by six Bay Area counties on Monday, March 16 sent cannabis buyers into a near-panic, with long lines forming outside dispensaries they expected to be forcibly shuttered that night. After some confusing back-and-forth between the mayor of San Francisco’s office and dispensary owners, the city relented and classified all dispensaries offering medical cannabis as “essential.”

Of course—because cannabis is legal for both medical and adult-use purposes in California—the verbiage has become an even thornier-than-usual question. In the Bay Area, for instance, NBC reported that counties were resolving the issue on a case-by-case basis.

Then, on Thursday, March 19, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered all California residents to shelter in place, putting the state’s efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19 / coronavirus in sharp relief. Fortunately for Los Angeles dispensary operators, the city appears to be avoiding the medical / adult-use question by designating all dispensaries there as essential, as reported by CNN.

Dispensaries Seen as Essential: New York

In New York—which narrowly failed to allow adult-use cannabis last year—state health regulators deemed medical cannabis dispensaries essential businesses. As of Friday, March 20, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had issued an order mandating that all non-essential businesses close at 8 pm on Sunday, March 22.

Dispensaries Seen as Essential: Nevada

COVID-19 Update Dispensaries Increasingly Seen as Essential Service Providers
Governor Steve Sisolak ordered non-essential businesses to close for a month beginning at noon on Wednesday, March 18. All dispensaries are permitted to remain open with the condition that they adhere to social-distancing procedures, including urging customers to use cannabis delivery services where available and to order by phone or online.

Dispensaries Seen as Essential: Colorado

Some of Colorado’s rural communities have taken it upon themselves to allow dispensaries to operate under the current state of emergency, including in the mountainous areas of Gunnison and Summit counties.

Elsewhere: Arizona, Massachusetts, Michigan

As reported by Marijuana Business Daily, Massachusetts and Michigan have loosened their pre-existing restrictions on cannabis delivery. In Arizona, that nudge came from the private sector, where a digital payment platform Alt Thirty Six voluntarily waived its customary delivery transaction fees for merchants until April 20.

An Upshot for Dispensaries?

COVID-19 Update Dispensaries Increasingly Seen as Essential Service Providers
As we’ve reported previously, many areas are seeing enormous surges in cannabis sales, especially in those municipalities that permit cannabis delivery.

If you’re offering delivery and want to make sure you connect with customers, join us for our free webinar on Thursday, March 26. We’ll be talking about the digital marketing tactics that will help get your delivery service noticed! Want to talk now? Give us a call.