Michigan Governor Deems Cannabis Businesses as ‘Essential’ During COVID-19 Outbreak

“Federal and state laws (should) be changed to no longer make it
a crime to possess marijuana for private use.”

― Richard Nixon

Not too long ago, cannabis use and sales, whether for medical or recreational purposes were crimes that the state severely restricted and punished. Thinking that the cultivation, processing and sale of cannabis were essential services in Michigan would have been absurd. But with the passage of legislation providing for the medical and recreational use of cannabis, things have drastically changed – to the point where they are not only legal, but now considered “essential.”

On March 24, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issue Executive Order 2020-21 (EO), which establishes a stay-at-home order until April 13. The EO requires those who work in fields that are “not necessary to sustain or protect life” to refrain from going to work. Those businesses that are deemed essential must still restrict their operations to those workers who are necessary to conduct minimal operations, maintain the operations and value of equipment and inventory, provide security and process transactions. Those businesses still in operation must also inform in writing the workers they designate as necessary for basic operations.

Following the EO, Michigan departments began issuing advice as to which workers and activities are essential. The Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) issued an Advisory Bulletin identifying that “licensed medical marijuana facilities and licensed adult-use marijuana establishments” may continue operation and identified the means by which they can continue operating. Provisioning centers and retailers can provide product either through delivery or by curbside service and no sales activity can occur within the establishment. Only those deemed essential can be present and must exercise social distancing guidelines during these activities.

But what about those businesses that are in the middle of their construction activities? In an inquiry to the MRA about whether construction activities for a cannabis business would be contrary to Governor Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, the MRA responded, “Construction of critical or strategic infrastructure related to essential services is permitted.” It appears that completion of critical infrastructure related to cannabis businesses may continue, although I would urge you to inquire with the MRA for your specific project.

Cannabis companies are also responding to the COVID-19 threat in a variety of ways across the country. In Hawaii, a medical cannabis retailer has developed its own hand sanitizer for use by its employees and customers after having difficulty finding supplies. Cannabis trimming equipment manufacturer, Keirton, Inc., has offered to work to manufacture respirators. Like any mainstream business, some cannabis businesses seem to be stepping up in the midst of the pandemic to offer assistance.

Michigan has joined Illinois, Washington, Massachusetts, Florida, and several other states in identifying cannabis as an essential service during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. This is a far cry from the days of the illegal cannabis market just a few short years ago and demonstrates how quickly cannabis has become mainstream. Perhaps the federal government will take heed, too.

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