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How Cannabis Operators in 3 States Cope With Shelter-In-Place Orders

Industry News Alpie Atabay

With an increasing number of shelter-in-place orders across the US, cannabis dispensaries are fighting to keep their doors open. While shelter-in-place orders are intended to keep citizens in their homes, several businesses are exempted from shelter-in-place. 

Many healthcare facilities are exempt from these orders because they’re essential. However, it’s unclear if cannabis is considered an essential business—states and municipalities have to make the decision on a case by case basis. 

Here’s how 3 states across the US are coping with cannabis access in the face of COVID-19. 


On March 19, California Governor Newsom issued orders for a statewide lockdown until further notice. All non-essential businesses were ordered to close, and citizens were ordered to remain in their homes to prevent the spread of coronavirus. However, “essential” businesses are exempted from Governor Newsom’s order. Healthcare and public health companies are considered essential, but there’s room for interpretation regarding whether cannabis dispensaries are essential. 

California’s counties have decided whether dispensaries will operate under shelter-in-place orders, and how operations will happen. 


Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued an executive order prohibiting gatherings of 25+ people, as well as onsite dining at restaurants. The Oregon Cannabis Association is working with the governor to keep dispensaries open, arguing that they provide an essential service to citizens. 

The order doesn’t specify if dispensaries are allowed to remain open. However, businesses that do remain open at this time have to practice social distancing. Oregon hasn’t taken an official stance on dispensaries, but many are choosing to stay open, albeit with new operating procedures

New York

Though a statewide shelter-in-place hasn’t been issued, medical cannabis dispensaries have been designated as essential businesses. In the wake of COVID-19, New York is encouraging dispensaries to:

California, Oregon, and New York have been hit hard by COVID-19. It’s inevitable that more shelter-in-place orders will come across the US as we try to slow the virus’s spread. Investors and cannabis operators should keep their eyes peeled for more stringent measures, such as a total shutdown, that could affect their livelihood. 

Author Alpie Atabay




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