Dispensaries Labeled Essential During Lockdown

As people are required to stay at home during the coronavirus crisis, stores that are deemed "non-essential" have also been asked to close. Not to worry though, cannabis dispensaries have been labeled "Essential."

Following the outbreak of Coronavirus – also known as COVID-19 – that emerged from Wuhan in China, countries have seen their infection rates skyrocket and as a result, many are going into lockdown to prevent further spreading of the virus.

All across the U.S., people are being asked to stay at home until further notice, limiting their travel to essential trips like going to the grocery store. Though this has many wondering; what will happen to weed dispensaries?

Well, the good news is, in most states, cannabis dispensaries are being labeled "essential stores."

The clearest example of this has been in California, which entered into a state of lockdown last Thursday following Governor Gavin Newsom's request that all Californians stay home until they are told to do otherwise. California is the most populous U.S. state, with nearly 40 million residents, and across the state, Cannabis dispensaries are being allowed to stay open.

Los Angeles deemed "cannabis dispensaries with a medicinal cannabis license" as "essential infrastructure" that is not required to close. The justification behind keeping dispensaries open is that cannabis is used by many for medical purposes, like reducing inflammation, minimizing chronic pain, and improving insomnia and for these reasons, cannabis dispensaries are seen in the same vein as pharmacies.

San Francisco followed suit, though initially, the state included cannabis businesses in the list of stores required to close. This decision was retracted a day later, with state officials saying that cannabis dispensaries could stay open provided they implemented certain measures to prevent crowding.

These measures generally involve dispensaries strongly urging their customers to use online platforms to purchase cannabis via delivery in order to minimize social interactions. Additionally, dispensaries are also regularly sanitizing surfaces as well as removing any example products or menus that are likely to be touched by high volumes of people.

The impending lockdown, as well as requests for customers to order online led to an enormous spike in online sales, presumably with many customers stockpiling cannabis in preparation for their self-isolation.

For example, San Francisco-based delivery company Eaze saw first-time orders double on Wednesday, March 18th when compared to the same day in 2019. Preliminary data from the cannabis data intelligence firm Headset also indicated that overall legal sales spiked by 159% when compared with the same day in 2019.

And if one looks at the products being purchased, they generally fall in line with knowledge surrounding the coronavirus, which has been found to predominantly affect the lungs. This means a majority of cannabis sales have been comprised of edible products, likely as a way for consumers to avoid agitating their lungs while the virus remains a pandemic. In both Washington State and California, cannabis edibles received the lion's share of additional revenue, while raw flower sales only increased by 20%.

"I think that's kind of what consumers are thinking, as well. So edible sales are really being boosted at this time," Headset Director of Analytics Liz Conners said. "You don't have to touch your face very much to take an edible. They're all pre-wrapped, so you can hand a pre-wrapped edible to a friend."

Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Illinois are among other states which have kept their dispensaries open.

The move to categorize dispensaries alongside pharmacies represents not only the necessity of cannabis for medical uses, but also the growing popularity of the plant and how mainstream it has quickly become. While bars are asked to close, dispensaries are deemed "essential."

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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