Marijuana industry eyes impact from more stay-at-home orders

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The governor of Illinois on Friday followed his counterparts in California and New York by issuing a statewide stay-at-home order in response to the growing coronavirus crisis.

And it appears that New Jersey and Connecticut may take similar steps, which could leave marijuana businesses in all of those states scrambling to figure out how – or if – they’ll be able to continue serving customers.

The Illinois order, for instance, included a provision ordering all “non-essential” businesses to close for the time being.

But cannabis businesses, including both medical and adult use shops as well as cultivators, were identified in Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s order as “essential,” indicating perhaps little interruption to business as usual.

By contrast, New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order, issued Friday, had no mention of cannabis or marijuana businesses.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut so far have only legalized marijuana for medical uses, which suggests it could be easier for policymakers to categorize marijuana businesses alongside hospitals and pharmacies, and allow them to remain operational during the coronavirus outbreak.

In California, the statewide order has not included any specific guidance for cannabis businesses.

Rather, it has led to a patchwork of local guidance from a handful of cities and counties.

The city of San Francisco on Monday told all MJ retailers to cease operations, but reversed that policy in less than 24 hours.

The situation may be different in each state, depending on how each governor chooses to classify the industry, as either part of “essential” businesses – such as the health-care sector – or if the cannabis industry is deemed to be more akin to bars and restaurants, which many states are ordering to temporarily close.

The California MJ industry has pushed back against mandated retail closures, citing the medical needs of thousands of patients that depend on cannabis regularly.

Many of those patients have let their medical marijuana recommendations from doctors lapse since adult-use sales began in 2018 – since it’s easier to purchase MJ products as an over-the-counter medication – and insiders don’t want to overburden doctors with a rush of consumers suddenly demanding new recommendations so they can legally continue buying MMJ.

– John Schroyer

For more of Marijuana Business Daily’s ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the cannabis industry, click here.