People are going crazy over the coronavirus Covid-19. Switzerland effected prohibition of gatherings of more than five people. In the United Kingdom, schools, gyms, nightclubs, pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and theatres have been instructed to shut up shop. The government will pay 80 percent of the wages of workers prevented from working, as much as £2,500 a month.

Similar advice is in effect in the United States, where 33 states plus Washington, DC, permit cannabis for medical uses. It has, however, often been decided that cannabis is “essential.” and so establishments that purvey it are staying open. Jason Erkes, spokesman for the cannabis dealer Cresco Labs, remarked, “You can’t say [the pharmacies] Walgreens or CVS can stay open but cannabis dispensaries have to close.”

California was the first state to order the closure of non-essential businesses. This did not include purveyors of cannabis like this one. Photo: Damian Gadal

California was the first state to order the closure of non-essential businesses. This did not include purveyors of cannabis like this one. Photo: Damian Gadal


California asked residents to remain confined to their homes unless absolutely necessary. This was the first state to order the closure of non-essential businesses. But it deemed that cannabis is essential.


Ohio closed schools and non-essential businesses that included barber shops, bars, nail salons and restaurants. With cannabis being essential, dispensaries were classified the same as pharmacies and allowed to stay open.


The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced that medical cannabis dispensaries could continue to sell the drug. Delivery to customers … excuse me, patients … was not permitted.


Michigan’s governor declared a state emergency. The state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency is allowing licensed dispensaries to remain open and conduct home deliveries.


Pennsylvania’s Department of Health recommended the temporary closure of “non-essential businesses” for 14 days. But cannabis is essential, just like traditional pharmacies. The state’s Secretary of Health, Dr Rachel Levine, went so far as to describe cannabis as “life sustaining.”

Noo Yawk

A spokesperson for New York’s governor was explicit: “registered organisations in the State’s Medical Marijuana Program are essential medical providers.” New York hairdresser Brian Magallones cautioned, “Maybe this is not a good time to be having orgies.”


Nevada’s governor instructed non-essential enterprises to close, but, once more, cannabis is essential. Licensed purveyors can remain open but must implement drastic social-distancing measures. These include not allowing people to gather and having the drug delivered to their homes where possible.


Rural communities, like those of the Colorado mountain areas, have closed non-essential businesses while acknowledging that cannabis is essential. Hence dispensaries can remain open.


Business is booming for US cannabis dispensaries, and long lines have formed outside. Hope those folk are staying far apart. As Steve DeAngelo, co-founder and chairman of California’s Harborside dispensaries, put it: “It’s not about getting high. It’s about being well.” San Francisco banned “non-essential group events” – those of at least 50 people – at city-owned facilities. Sales in California skyrocketed by 159 percent in one day last week. Staff at a dozen San Franciscan cannabis stores were too busy to talk to Reuters. The Apothecarium’s three dispensaries in San Francisco saw their best day of business since recreational cannabis became legal in January 2018. Its spokesman, Eliot Dobris, remarked, “People were buying in larger quantities, not certain when they would be able to come back and make another purchase.”

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