San Francisco Cannabis Dispensaries Allowed to Reopen After Brief Coronavirus Closure

City says dispensaries provide "essential medicine" during this time.

The sweeping, coronavirus-related shelter-in-place orders across six Bay Area counties are nearly the exact same orders for each county, telling “residents to stay home except for essential needs.” But apparently, “essential needs” were defined differently by each county. San Jose has deemed that its cannabis dispensaries and deliveries are essential services, according to the Bay Area News Group, and SF Weekly has confirmed that Alameda County and Oakland cannabis retailers are still open for business under the shelter-in-place orders.

But they weren’t in San Francisco — until now. Mayor London Breed just amended her shelter-in-place order to allow dispensaries to reopen.

“Cannabis is an needed medicine for many San Franciscans and dispensaries are allowed to continue operating,” the mayor announced at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Many San Francisco dispensaries were confident those rules would change.

“We have it on good authority we’ll be opening this week,” said one San Francisco dispensary we called, who had staff on hand, and were ready to open up at a moment’s notice once they got permission.

SPARC owner Erich Pearson tells SF Weekly that he expected the change to come today. “I’ve gotten good responses from some [San Francisco] supervisors that they’re very concerned about this,” Pearson says. “I think we’ll see some sort of change in policy today.”

Supervisor Matt Haney led the charge, in a private meeting with department heads.

“I feel very strongly that cannabis dispensaries should be open for pickup and delivery,” Haney told SF Weekly just minutes before the meeting. “I’ve heard from many of my constituents who are afraid about these dispensaries being shut down for the next three weeks or longer. It clearly falls into something that would be an ‘essential service.’”

“Just like with take-out restaurants or pet stores, aquariums or a broad range of things that we’re allowing to stay open, this could be done in a way that maintains adequate health protections, including social distancing, no on-site use, and continuing pickup and delivery.

“There’s absolutely no logical reason to shut down delivery. Delivery is still happening for everything else. Why would you shut down local cannabis delivery operations?”

The change wasn’t like the switch of a normal law. The director of Public Health reopened the dispensaries with a simple order from Mayor Breed.
“This was done under the emergency powers of the mayor, it’s not something that can be fixed legislatively,” Haney explains. 

“If any city were to know this is an important concern, it’s San Francisco,” Haney says.

SF Weekly has not confirmed whether any SF dispensaries are open yet. But you’d better believe they will be Wednesday morning.

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