A majority of Americans believe that medical cannabis dispensaries should be kept open as “essential services” amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new poll.
The survey asked simply: “Do you believe medical marijuana dispensaries should or should not be considered essential services?”
Fifty-three percent said the cannabis providers should be regarded as essential, 26 percent said they shouldn’t and 21 percent said they didn’t know.
As state governments across the country grapple with the COVID-19 outbreak, officials have had to make difficult decisions about which businesses are critical enough to remain open and which should be forced to temporarily shut down. In many states with legal cannabis—including California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey—officials have determined that medical marijuana dispensaries are, in fact, essential services that can continue to operate.
Many states have also given the “essential” designation to recreational marijuana stores, though some have enacted policies stipulating that consumers can only obtain cannabis products through curbside pickup or delivery services to encourage social distancing.
It’s a trend that has reflected the mainstreaming of marijuana in U.S. society, with governments increasingly recognizing that the medicine is valuable and that dispensaries should be treated like other necessary businesses like pharmacies.
YouGov conducted the new online poll, which involved nearly 5,400 people on Wednesday.
A breakdown of demographics shows that, as in generally the case with cannabis reform issues, Democratic respondents were more likely (62 percent) than Republicans (43 percent) to agree that dispensaries should be considered essential services exempt from business closure requirements. Fifty-two percent of those who identify as independent said the shops should stay open for patients.
A majority of people across all age groups except those 55 and older said dispensaries are essential.
But while dispensaries in many states can continue to serve patients, COVID-19 has had a deleterious impact on drug policy reform efforts across the country.
In California, campaigns to amend the state’s cannabis program and legalize psilocybin mushrooms are suspending in-person activities and asking the state to allow for electronic signature gathering. Activists in Washington, D.C. similarly requested that officials allow alternative signature collection for a measure to decriminalize a broad range of psychedelics.
More recently, a campaign to legalize medical cannabis in Nebraska put a temporary pause on its activities in accordance with guidance from health officials. In neighboring South Dakota, activists are urging voters to consider requesting absentee ballots to ensure that measures to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes are successful.
In New York, plans to legalize cannabis through the budget appear to have been derailed as the state prioritizes a coronavirus response. And in Oregon, activists working to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes said their signature collection efforts have hit a snag amid the pandemic.