Sales Increase as Medical Marijuana Businesses Labeled “Essential” during COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Orders

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Eaze, a marijuana delivery company whose app is shown above, reported 31% more deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Source: Jamieaze, “Eaze Marijuana Delivery on iPhone,”, Nov. 1, 2015

As more stay-at-home orders are issued during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, medical marijuana dispensaries have been labeled “essential” businesses, meaning they can remain open under certain guidelines while other businesses such as bookstores must close their doors to customers. Other essential businesses include pharmacies, grocery stores, banks, gas stations, and laundromats.

San Francisco, one of the first cities to issue a shelter-in-place order effective on Mar. 17, at first did not include marijuana dispensaries among essential businesses but revised the list to do so the next day. Mayor London Breed stated, “since cannabis has medical uses, dispensaries will be allowed to operate as essential businesses, just as pharmacies are allowed to do.”

Cannabis dispensaries were listed as essential businesses allowed to remain open under the Los Angeles County “safer at home” emergency order effective Mar. 20 and the “New York State on PAUSE” executive order signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo effective on Mar. 22.

Illinois relaxed rules for marijuana sales on Mar. 17 by temporarily allowing curbside delivery, and also deemed medical marijuana dispensaries as essential businesses when the state’s stay-at-home order took effect on Mar. 21. Toi Hutchinson, Senior Advisor for Cannabis Control to Illinois Governor Pritzker, stated, “Our top priority is to minimize the risk of and protect as many people from exposure to COVID-19. These steps prioritize that critical objective, while also ensuring medical patients have access to the medicine they need.”

Marijuana sales overall (medical and adult-use) have increased recently in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. On Mar. 16, Oregon saw sales about 75% higher than usual, according to cannabis data company Headset, which also found that customers were buying 29% more marijuana at once in Colorado to stock up. Eaze, a California marijuana delivery service, reported a 38% increase in average order volume, with 31% more deliveries and 51% more first-time deliveries.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said that medical marijuana dispensaries will be “treated for all intents and purposes the same way we treat healthcare operations,” allowing them to stay open during the stay-at-home advisory taking effect Mar. 24. The state’s decision to close recreational marijuana businesses drew complaints. David O’Brien, president of the Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association, said, “It’s discriminatory to adult-use cannabis consumers in a state where it’s legal.”

However, some marijuana dispensaries are choosing to close their doors during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Though Colorado has not put in place a stay-at-home order as of Mar. 23, Organic Alternatives in Fort Collins, CO, posted on their Facebook page on Mar. 15, 2020, “Due to the lack of availability of testing for COVID-19 to our community, Organic Alternatives is ceasing [its] retail operations effective immediately. As a long standing business in this community, we feel it is our responsibility to do what we can to help stop the spread of this virus… We stand by taking the approach that the most socially responsible step is to shut our doors until our community has the ability to effectively test and either confirm or deny that it is safe for us to interact without the social distancing guidelines.”

Nationwide, 33 states and DC have legal medical marijuana, and 11 states and DC have legal recreational marijuana.

Discussion Questions – Things to Think About
1. Should medical marijuana dispensaries be labeled “essential” during stay-at-home orders? Explain your answer.

2. Should medical marijuana be legal? Should recreational marijuana be legal? Explain your answers.

3. What steps can individuals and businesses take to prevent the spread of a virus during a pandemic? Explain your answer.


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Los Angeles County,, Mar. 19, 2020

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