State officials in Nevada announced on Wednesday that cannabis dispensaries have been deemed essential businesses, allowing the shops to remain open during a closure ordered by Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. The governor ordered the closure of nonessential businesses on Tuesday in an effort to control the growing pandemic of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

“I have spoken with Nevada’s top medical experts to get their assessment of our current situation and most responsible next steps,” Sisolak said at a press conference on Tuesday. “They have advised that the most effective course of action is to direct all Nevadans to stay home and for all nonessential businesses to close to the public for 30 days.”

Sisolak ordered that slot machines be shut off and casinos to end gambling operations at midnight Tuesday evening. He also ordered nonessential businesses including bars and restaurants to close at noon on Wednesday.

But Tuesday’s order did not indicate if cannabis retailers would be included, prompting many consumers to line up at dispensaries the following morning. The Nevada Health Response Center, which has been tasked with the state’s response to the outbreak, announced on Wednesday that dispensaries that took precautions to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus would be permitted to operate. Officials have also encouraged residents to take advantage of marijuana delivery services if possible.

“Licensed cannabis stores and medical dispensaries should only remain open if employees and consumers strictly adhere to the social distancing protocol,” the agency said in a statement.

Retailers Take Precautions

The Source, a cannabis retailer with locations in Henderson and Las Vegas, released a statement saying that both shops would remain open during the crisis, noting that staff would be taking measures to protect customers and themselves.

“Employees have been asked to prioritize their health and the health of the community and to remain home if they show or feel any signs of illness,” the statement said. “Customers will no longer be able to take part in smelling flower before purchasing, as the flower displays are no longer available to prevent the spread of germs.”

Another Las Vegas cannabis retailer, the Apothecarium Dispensary, issued a statement saying that they were “closely monitoring the closure situation in Las Vegas and, as of right now, we will remain open for business. The situation is fluid, however, so we will make sure to update everyone through our emails, texts and social media.”

Although his order permits cannabis dispensaries and other essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations to remain open, Sisolak implored Nevada’s residents to stay at home. Appearing angry at times, the governor said the safety of first responders was dependent on the cooperation of the public.

“You’re being told not to go out,” Sisolak said, repeating himself for effect. “You’re being told not to go out. You owe it to them to listen to that directive.”

As closure and shelter-in-place orders are made across Europe and the United States, other jurisdictions including the Netherlands, San Francisco, Michigan, and Illinois have allowed cannabis dispensaries to remain open.

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