New York: Medical cannabis ‘essential,’ not subject to closures

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(This story has been updated to reflect that San Francisco marijuana operations can re-open.)

New York state health regulators on Tuesday declared licensed medical cannabis businesses to be “essential” services, allowed to remain open if nonessential businesses are ordered to close because of COVID-19.

Although New York is just one jurisdiction, it could be a signal for how other states will treat licensed MMJ businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some businesses across the country have been concerned that they could be forced to close temporarily, putting both their financial health and patient health at risk.

For example, the city of San Francisco on Monday ordered all marijuana businesses to cease operations, deeming them “nonessential.” Later, however, it reversed its decision and said they were essential operations and could re-open.

In New York Department of Health guidance , regulators strengthened safety and health protocols for registered MMJ businesses.

Key aspects include:

  • Allowing operators to dispense from the doors of their facilities, as long as exchanges are on camera and patient ID cards are validated.
  • Permitting operators to expand home delivery without prior approval until April 16 (for those already approved for home delivery). The state recommends delivery drivers wear masks and gloves and use their own pens for signatures.
  • Encouraging businesses to have patients set up appointments in order to avoid overcrowding in dispensaries.

– Jeff Smith