Medical marijuana supporters call on governors to protect access to cannabis

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The coronavirus is causing states to shut down dispensaries, but cannabis advocates are looking for change

As the US tries to contain the spread of the COVID-19 and positive cases have been confirmed in all 50 states, many state and local governments are taking drastic measures of forcing many businesses to close. Some people are concerned that these measures will force the medical marijuana dispensaries to close, as well, so they are turning to policymakers for help. A group of advocates, along with some medical marijuana patients, sent a letter to state medical cannabis programs and governors in an “emergency call to action” request.

If the decision is made to close dispensaries, hundreds of thousands of patients will be left with no access to their medicine and force them somehow to look for options in the illicit market. Members of the Americans for Safe Access (ASA) – a leading nonprofit medical cannabis advocacy group – are asking respective authorities to take steps to avoid patients losing access to their products while this social distancing measure is active. For instance, in San Francisco, a letter was expedited to dispensaries in which it is stated that dispensaries are not “Essential Businesses,” so they need to follow the Stay at Home Order. Some other states like Pennsylvania, however, have dispensaries and pharmacies in the same category, so no orders for closing were issued.

“Medical marijuana patients “represent some of the states’ most vulnerable citizens,” ASA interim Director Debbie Churgai said in the letter. “We are calling on states to take precautions now to help ensure that patients have access today and that measures are taken to ensure that the supply chain is not interrupted.” The letter mentions a list of measures that need to happen to ensure patients don’t lose access starting with changing its categorization to essential businesses as the first step.