Michigan regulators announced on Monday that cannabis retailers would be considered essential businesses and allowed to remain open for businesses during closures ordered by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The governor ordered all nonessential businesses to close and advised residents to remain indoors in a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order issued on March 23 in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“In just 13 days, we’ve gone from 0 to over 1,000 COVID-19 cases,” Whitmer said in a press release. “This is an unprecedented crisis that requires all of us working together to protect our families and our communities. The most effective way we can slow down the virus is to stay home. I know this will be hard, but it will be temporary. If we all come together, get serious, and do our part by staying home, we can stay safe and save lives.”

Under Whitmer’s order, all businesses were directed to suspend all in-person operations that are not necessary to sustain or protect life. In a bulletin issued on Monday, the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) announced that both medical marijuana provisioning centers and adult-use cannabis retailers would be permitted to continue serving customers during the closure order if they comply with special conditions.

Social Distancing Mandatory

Regulators announced last week that retailers were being given the option of offering curbside pickup so customers would not have to enter the store or wait in line during the outbreak. David Harns, a spokesman for the MRA, said that cannabis retailers would now only be permitted to provide marijuana to customers through curbside pickup or home delivery. 

“In-person transactions within the licensed facility or establishment are prohibited,” said Harns. “Additionally, licensees must comply with social distancing requirements for staff within the facilities and establishments. Licensees must designate only as many employees as necessary to show up to work to cover supplies and provide services and to maintain the value of inventory in general.”

Cannabis advocate Jamie Cooper agrees with Whitmer’s decision to designate cannabis retailers as essential businesses during the coronavirus crisis. She said that many people use marijuana therapeutically and will find it helpful during the stress of a global pandemic.

“Medical cannabis is often used for anxiety and depression, and I think a lot of people will be struggling with that anxiety because of finances and the way this is impacting a lot of people financially,” Cooper said.

Whitmer’s stay-at-home order went into effect on Tuesday and is scheduled to remain in force until April 13. The governor asked that the state’s business owners cooperate with the order.

“Don’t try and skirt the rules,” Whitmer said. “If you’re not an essential business you need to close and you need to protect your employees.”

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