City of Berkeley orders stoppage of in-store cannabis dispensary services

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Updated 3/27/2020: This article has been updated to reflect additional information from city spokesperson Matthai Chakko.

The city of Berkeley ordered local cannabis dispensaries to stop in-store services and instead utilize a delivery-only model, as first reported by Berkeleyside.

On March 17, the city enacted a “shelter in place” order with businesses considered “essential” to continue their operations under guidelines including social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, or the coronavirus. Cannabis dispensaries are considered “essential businesses” or “essential” health care businesses in other Bay Area cities because of the drug’s medicinal benefits.

Berkeley, however, did not consider cannabis dispensaries “essential” businesses when enacting the shelter-in-place order. Some local dispensaries adjusted their hours, restricted their customers to only those who use cannabis medicinally, recommended online options and have allowed their staff members to “home isolate” if needed.

According to a Berkeleyside article, the city’s economic development manager Jordan Klein sent an email Wednesday about the order and said Dr. Lisa Hernandez, the city’s public health officer, made the decision. The article added that some dispensaries have appealed to Mayor Jesse Arreguín to intervene, as only one cannabis business in Berkeley has a delivery service.

“The Mayor spoke with the City Manager on Wednesday evening, shortly after this decision had been made,” said Stefan Elgstrand, Arreguín’s spokesperson, in an email. “He had requested that staff reconsider the decision and allow for curbside pickup, which other cities such as San Francisco allow.”

According to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko, Hernandez has made the decision to allow dispensaries to provide curbside services in addition to deliveries if social distancing measures are utilized to limit exposure to COVID-19.

Thao Nguyen is a deputy news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @tnguyen_dc.