COVID-19: Cannabis businesses have been deemed “essential services”

In B.C., retailers and producers were included under the heading of “Food and agricultural service providers”

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In British Columbia, the provincial government has designated regulated cannabis producers and retailers as “essential services”, which will allow them to continue operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a news release issued on March 26, Mike Farnworth, B.C.’s minister of public safety and solicitor general, provided a list of essential services that included health-care providers, law enforcement, first responders, food banks, and care for seniors and people with disabilities.

Cannabis retailers and producers were included under the heading of “Food and agricultural service providers”.

Elsewhere in Canada, cannabis businesses have been deemed essential in Ontario and Quebec.

As for the United States, a recent Politico article on the subject notes that in some areas of the country, cannabis retailers are being treated the same as pharmacies, “reflecting a dramatic shift in cultural perceptions about the drug over the last decade”.

“Nearly all of the 33 states with legal medical or recreational markets have classified marijuana businesses as an essential service, allowing them to remain open even as vast swaths of the retail economy are shuttered,” the article notes. “San Francisco and Denver initially announced plans to shut down dispensaries, but immediately backpedaled after a public furor.”

The United States Congress is poised to pass a $2 trillion stimulus package this week that will not include the cannabis industry. (Tanarch / iStock/ Getty Images Plus)

At the federal level, policy-makers evidently don’t view cannabis in quite the same light as those 33 states. This week, Congress is expected to pass a US$2 trillion stimulus package, from which the cannabis industry will be excluded.

It’s a puzzling omission. As Politico points out, “The cannabis industry generated $15 billion in sales last year and employs 340,000 people. Employers and workers pay federal taxes, and are required to comply with other coronavirus-related measures such as paid sick leave coverage.”

According to YouGov, a majority of Americans polled earlier this week were of the opinion that medical marijuana dispensaries should be considered essential services:

What do you think? Should dispensaries be considered essential? What about recreational cannabis stores? Leave a comment below.

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