“It doesn’t seem consistent as to why a liquor store would be essential, but a dispensary wouldn’t,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
A YouGov poll reported last week that 53% of Americans believe medical marijuana dispensaries are “essential businesses” amid the global coronavirus pandemic. Another 26% of the more than 5,000 Americans surveyed disagreed while 21% answered they “don’t know.”
In an Instagram Q&A this week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was asked a similar question: “Do you think marijuana dispensaries should be considered essential businesses?” As first reported by Marijuana Moment, her response came with a caveat.
“I’d say that if your state is deeming liquor stores to be an essential business—it doesn’t seem consistent as to why a liquor store would be essential, but a dispensary wouldn’t,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “You’ve got to make a decision one way or another.”
This question has been ongoing throughout various shelter in-place orders and quarantine lockdowns. The majority of legal states have continued to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to run, so long as strict social distancing and sanitization protocol is met. State lawmakers have also loosened restrictions on marijuana delivery and curbside pickup to help keep businesses open
Recreational states like California and Colorado have followed AOC’s lead, but when Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker closed all non-essential businesses last week, he included adult-use marijuana stores. The decision caused mild anxiety for residents, who rushed to stockpile cannabis in response. Some admitted they will resort to the black market should the closure continues. Baker said this week re-opening marijuana stores is a “non-starter.”
NORML (The National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws) sent a memo to lawmakers like Baker this week, urging that access to legal, regulated cannabis goes uninterrupted during the pandemic.
“In this era of tremendous uncertainty, it is crucial that policymakers use every tool in their toolkit to promote public health and safety,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said in a statement. “The enactment of various marijuana policy reforms can assist in these goals by reprioritizing law enforcement resources, mitigating interpersonal contact in our communities, and by ensuring that the elderly and more vulnerable patients continue to have uninterrupted access to state-regulated cannabis products via home delivery or curbside pick-up.”