Customers line up for online orders outside Grass Roots Dispensary on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Grass Roots was one of a few dispensaries in the City that stayed open after a shelter-in-place order Monday that closed most non-essential services. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Cannabis dispensaries allowed to open despite city lockdown

Stores deemed ‘essential services’ for medical marijuana users

Cannabis dispensaries can continue to offer delivery or pick-up service despite Monday’s shelter-in-place order that closed many businesses, the Department of Public Health announced in a Tweet late Tuesday afternoon.

“Cannabis is an essential medicine for many San Francisco residents. Dispensaries can continue to operate as essential businesses during this time,” the DPH Tweeted late Tuesday afternoon.

Mayor London Breed echoed the message, saying “Cannabis is an needed medicine for many San Franciscans and dispensaries are allowed to continue operating.”

The announcement comes as a reversal of the department’s earlier message to dispensaries, in which it deemed them non-essential businesses that were required to shutter.

Many dispensaries around San Francisco were closed on Tuesday after initial shelter-in-place orders from The City that shut down most retailers. (Corey Browning/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

The mandate to close had sparked sharp criticism from some city leaders and activists who said it hurt those who use cannabis medicinally.

“Cannabis dispensaries should be able to stay open, for take out and delivery only,” District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney said on Twitter. “They shouldn’t be told to close. They obviously serve as pharmacies for a lot of people.”

Dispensaries in San Francisco sell to both recreational and medicinal users, with recreational users taxed at a higher rate. Keeping dispensaries open will allow for continued service to both groups.

On Monday, cannabis purchasers reported long lines at dispensaries after retailers sent out text and email blasts warning of impending closures.

But while many San Francisco dispensaries were closed Tuesday, at least a few remained open for business throughout the day.

(Corey Browning/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

Grass Roots in Lower Nob Hill remained open Tuesday for online order pickup only for both medicinal and recreational users. Stiiizy Mission in the Outer Mission was also open for walk-ins, serving recreational and medicinal customers.

Others, like Urbana in the Inner Richmond, were closed, with signs posted citing The City’s shelter-in-place order.

Through Monday and much of Tuesday, The City’s shelter in place information page indicated that medicinal marijuana is permitted, but “recreational retailers are not an essential service.” That message has since been removed.

In a letter addressed to dispensaries earlier in the day Tuesday, The Office of Cannabis had stated that dispensaries should be closed.

Even after the reversal later in the day, the Department of Public Health recommends cannabis purchasers should remain 6 feet apart when visiting stores. On-site consumption is not allowed.

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