Cannabis dispensaries stay open during ‘shelter in place’ period

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Cannabis dispensaries around the city of Berkeley are remaining open during the mandated “shelter in place” period, albeit some with limited hours and restrictions on customers.

Alameda County issued a shelter-in-place order for its residents Monday and California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a “stay at home” order Thursday for all of California in response to COVID-19, the new coronavirus. The orders consider certain types of businesses to be “essential” and can therefore stay open and be accessible to the public, including pharmacies and those related to health care.

Cannabis dispensaries are considered “essential businesses” in some cities because of the drug’s medicinal benefits. Both San Francisco and San Jose are also counting dispensaries as “essential” health care businesses.

“I understand there are nuances to the types of cannabis businesses, but that’s how we’re interpreting the order at this time,” said San Jose city spokesperson Rosario Neaves in an email. “If the County Public Health Department issues additional clarification or revision, the City must and will follow the revised Order.”

When San Francisco initially put its shelter-in-place order into effect Monday, it did not include cannabis dispensaries as “essential” and its health department asked the businesses to shut down. The San Francisco Department of Public Health changed its order the next day, however, acknowledging the medicinal uses of the drug but asked dispensaries to encourage home deliveries of their products.

“The Department of Public Health today clarified that since marijuana has medical uses, dispensaries will be allowed to operate as essential businesses, just as pharmacies are allowed to do,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed during a press conference.

Several dispensaries in Berkeley have adjusted their hours, including Hi-Fidelity.

Others such as Berkeley Patients Group, or BPG, have restricted their customers to only those who use cannabis medicinally.

Hi-Fidelity has also allowed its staff members to “home isolate” if needed, according to its website. BPG advised its customers to take advantage of its online options to limit opportunities for contact.

Dispensaries, as are all other “essential businesses” and “essential activities,” are still instructed to maintain social distancing within their stores.

Kate Finman is the university news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.