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Which US States Have Kept Cannabis Businesses Open During Coronavirus Restrictions?

By Alexander Beadle

Published: Mar 25, 2020   
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In an unprecedented effort to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, a growing number of US states are imposing strict social distancing regulations on their residents. In practice, this means that all “non-essential workers” should remain in their homes.

Many state governments have since deemed medical marijuana workers as “essential,” but their regulations are by no means uniform.  

As of March 24, 2020, not every state has implemented stay-at-home orders. But, for those that have, the coronavirus-related rules cannabis companies must now abide by are as follows:


An initial public order from the City of Los Angeles, issued last Thursday, said that the city considered all cannabis dispensaries and related services to be included within the essential healthcare sector, and so should remain open.

And in a clarification document published over the weekend, California Governor Gavin Newsom included cannabis retailers and other workers in the supply chain supporting the cannabis retail business, as “essential” under the official state policy.


Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued a state executive order on March 20 temporarily allowing curbside delivery outside cannabis dispensaries, and giving approval to doctors to issue medical cannabis cards remotely using telemedicine consultations.

A separate order has designated cannabis dispensaries as “critical retail,” meaning that they can operate as normal while other industries must reduce their workforce, however this designation only applies to medical cannabis operations.


The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has approved a temporary rule allowing licensed cannabis retailers to operate curbside delivery procedures. The commission is also raising its purchase limits on the amount of flower that patients and caregivers can purchase per day.

The state government has moved to make it easier to obtain cannabis worker permits in the state.


Governor Jay Inslee and regulators at the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board have named cannabis retailers as a part of the essential workforce exempt from local shutdowns, and have allowed curbside deliveries at cannabis dispensaries for medical cannabis patients.


The stay-at-home order from Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker allows licensed cannabis dispensaries and cultivation centers to remain in normal operation. Separate guidance has also confirmed that curbside sales of medical cannabis – but not recreational products – will also be allowed, in a bid to limit exposure.


Massachusetts’ stay-at-home order has classified medical cannabis businesses as essential and exempt from shutdowns, but not recreational ones. Regulators have also authorized state certified healthcare providers to use telemedicine consultations to evaluate new patients for the state’s medical cannabis program.


Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has issued a stay-at-home order which will allow cannabis business to continue their operations but no longer perform in-person transactions in stores.

The Michigan Marijuana Advisory Board has encouraged the use of home delivery wherever possible, and is making efforts to approve requests from licensees within 24-48 hours. The board is also temporarily allowing curbside pickup, pending further announcements.


Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak and regulators from the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division have ruled that licenses cannabis retail stores and medical dispensaries must shut down all public storefronts in a bid to halt the transmission of the virus. Cultivation facilities, testing facilities, and other associated services will be allowed to remain operational but will be required to observe strict social distancing guidelines.

Legal cannabis sales will be allowed to continue but will be only available by delivery. The Marijuana Enforcement Division is implementing new virtual delivery vehicle inspection procedures in order to help licensees pivot to a delivery-only model. It has also said that curbside deliveries will not be permitted. 


Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont has issued an executive order asking non-essential businesses to reduce their in-person workforce by 100 percent, and all businesses to begin teleworking or working from home as much as possible. Medical cannabis dispensaries have been classed as essential healthcare operations.


Florida’s surgeon general has moved to allow in-person consultations for returning medical cannabis patients to be replaced by telemedicine consultations, at least for the next 30 days.


Medical cannabis cultivators, processors, and dispensaries have all been listed as businesses which are not requires to close under Maryland’s new COVID-19 guidance. While the state emphasizes that the guidance is not a shelter-in-place order, citizens are asked to remain at home as much as possible and employers are urged to promote work-from-home policies to the fullest extent in essential sectors. In line with this advice to minimize exposure, dispensaries have also been granted permission to deliver medical cannabis on-site to patients and caregivers who are parked in the dispensaries parking lot.

New Hampshire

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services has made temporary changes to its therapeutic cannabis program, with curbside pickups and telemedicine examinations now both allowed. Patients are also being strongly advised to pre-order and call ahead before traveling to their local center.

New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has exempted medical cannabis dispensaries from the retail closures contained in the state’s recent stay-at-home order. The New Jersey Department of Health has also chosen to allow curbside pickup for medical cannabis prescriptions, and to reduce all caregiver registration fees down to $20.

New Mexico

Regulators in New Mexico have said that medical cannabis dispensaries will remain open, and have moved to allow curbside pickups. Medical cannabis cards that were set to expire between March 11 and June 13 are will be extended by 90 days, and new patient consultations and card renewal recommendations are being strongly encouraged to take place using telemedicine.

New York

The New York Department of Health has confirmed that registered businesses in the state’s Medical Marijuana Program will be considered essential businesses and will be allowed to remain open as essential healthcare providers. Regulators have also said that businesses that are authorized to carry out home delivery will be given temporary permission to expand these services without the need for written approval.


The stay-at-home order from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine will allow medical cannabis businesses to continue as normal. The State Medical Board is allowing doctors to use telemedicine consultations to issue medical cannabis recommendations. It’s also asking patients to phone in orders to dispensaries ahead of time to reduce the amount of time spent inside dispensaries.


The Pennsylvania Department of Health has clarified that medical cannabis growers, processors, and dispensaries are considered “life-sustaining businesses,” and so are exempt from the governor’s order to non-essential businesses to close.

In addition, the department has also brought in several temporary rule changes which will allow for curbside pickups, waive in-person consultations in favor of telemedicine, eliminate background checks for caregiver application renewals, remove the cap on the number of patients assigned to one caregiver, and allow for dispensaries to issue a 90-day supply of cannabis to patients with the approval of their practitioner. 


As per the state governor’s stay-at-home order, licensed medical cannabis dispensaries and cannabis production facilities have been deemed essential. 

Alexander Beadle

Science Writer

Alexander Beadle has been working as a freelance science writer since 2017 and has covered the cannabis industry for Analytical Cannabis since 2018. He has also written for our sister publication, Technology Networks, and the cannabis industry consultant firm Prohibition Partners, among others. Alexander holds a Master's in Materials Chemistry from the University of St. Andrews, where he won a Chemistry Purdie scholarship, and conducted research into zeolite crystal growth mechanisms and the action of single-molecule transistors.


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