A Terrapin Care Station employee in Colorado conducts curbside pickup as an essential business during COVID-19 outbreak. (Courtesy Terrapin Care Station)
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced government officials to make life-or-death decisions about which goods and services are essential, and which are not.
Essential businesses stay open; those not on the list must close to the public.
In state after state, and province after province, regulators have declared medical marijuana essential. This is a watershed moment worth noting.
In California, New York, Washington, Illinois, Massachusetts, Colorado, Nevada, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, governors have closed non-essential businesses, but specifically allowed medical (and sometimes adult-use) cannabis dispensaries to remain open.
That’s a historic change.
From criminal to essential
Nearly a quarter-century ago, after California and Arizona passed the nation’s first statewide medical marijuana legalization laws, Clinton administration officials threatened to arrest any doctor who recommended the substance to a patient. Arizona lawmakers reacted by killing their own voter-passed initiative.
In the following years, governors opposed medical and adult-use initiatives in nearly every election. Even a couple years ago, top White House officials were mocking the idea of medical marijuana as a helpful tool to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic.
Only recently, with medical marijuana polling above 90% approval, have state executives stepped out to endorse legalization.
The evidence doesn’t lie
The coming of COVID-19 has forced state leaders to punt their posturing and get real about the value of medical cannabis.
They see how many of their friends, relatives, and neighbors are helped by it. They understand how many thousands of people avoid opioids and a potentially lethal addiction by managing their pain with medical marijuana. They know that