Law360 (April 3, 2020, 6:06 PM EDT) — Brett Schuman Nicholas Costanza Daniel Mello Jacob Raver Prior to 1996, cannabis was illegal under both federal and state law throughout the United States. While cannabis remains illegal under federal law today, 11 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for both medicinal and adult recreational purposes.
Now, amid the spread of the coronavirus throughout the United States and the stay-at-home orders issued by state governors and county officials to combat the spread of the virus, many of these states have taken unprecedented steps to ensure that medical and recreational cannabis remains available to their citizens in this time of crisis.
Stay-at-home orders in these states have deemed medical and/or recreational cannabis dispensaries as essential businesses that may continue to operate during the crisis. Designating marijuana as essential goes well beyond mere legalization and highlights the disconnect between federal and state cannabis law.
During the early days of the crisis, the marijuana industry has fared far better in states that have allowed home delivery. Other states have noticed, and have relaxed home delivery regulations in response. Likewise, many states have, for the first time, allowed outdoor, curbside pickup in an effort to enable consumers to continue to receive this essential product. Time will tell whether or not these short-term fixes will become a lasting feature of the industry.
In this article, we summarize which states have, and which have not, deemed marijuana businesses essential. We also discuss altered rules regarding home delivery and curbside pickup, and consider the potential long-term implications of today’s emergency rules.
Many States Consider Cannabis an Essential Industry
In response to COVID-19, governors in states where marijuana has been legalized at the state