As hundreds of businesses in cities such as San Francisco and New York close due to the coronavirus outbreak, medical marijuana stores remain open as officials revise public health orders to include cannabis as an essential medicine.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed (D) this week announced changes to the city's public health order that allowed only essential businesses such as grocery stores, banks and pharmacies to remain open while residents are required to stay at home, according to NPR.
Dispensaries and marijuana delivery services are now also deemed as critical businesses, according to city officials.
"We know this is an evolving situation," Breed said Tuesday evening at a press conference.
"In terms of the cannabis dispensaries, the Department of Public Health today clarified that since cannabis has medical uses, dispensaries will be allowed to operate as essential businesses, just as pharmacies are allowed to do," she added.
The San Francisco Department of Health confirmed the news to the public, saying dispensaries can "operate as essential businesses" but still encourage social distancing protocols.
Cannabis is an essential medicine for many San Francisco residents. Dispensaries can continue to operate as essential businesses during this time, while practicing social distancing and other public health recommendations.— SFDPH (@SF_DPH) March 17, 2020
On Wednesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed an executive order instructing nonessential businesses to establish telework policies by this Friday. The same exemptions for "essential" businesses apply to New York, allowing grocery stores, media and banks to continue work.
A spokesperson for the governor told NPR that "registered organizations in the State's Medical Marijuana Program are essential medical providers and will be allowed to remain open."
While cannabis stores are allowed to remain open at this time, many are exercising caution to prevent community spread of the coronavirus.
In Illinois, the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has issued temporary guidelines allowing medical marijuana vendors to set up carts or stands to sell products outside, preventing indoor crowds that could put staff and customers at risk.