Pot in a pandemic: Michigan's shelter-in-place order exempts marijuana businesses

March 23, 2020, 4:02 PM

A stay-home order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in response to coronavirus keeps marijuana dispensaries and grows open along with the state's "essential" businesses.

Whitmer on Monday issued the order to curb activity she says is "not necessary to sustain or protect life." But the order, to be in effect for at least three weeks, contains a provision allowing businesses to require workers to come in if they're needed "to conduct minimum basic operations." It also allows people to leave home to "obtain necessary services or supplies."

The state is considering pot, which some people use to treat medical conditions, a necessity. 

According to David Harns, with the state's Marijuana Regulatory Agency, marijuana businesses can continue to grow and sell through curbside service or delivery. The businesses, however, must ensure staff comply with social distancing requirements.

"Licensees must designate only as many employees as necessary to show up to work to cover supplies and provide services and to maintain the value of inventory in general," Harns added in a statement. "Licensees are further encouraged to abide by all guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services."

The Greenhouse of Walled Lake, Oakland County’s first licensed recreational marijuana facility, championed the move, saying many people rely on marijuana for its therapeutic benefits but don't have medical cards.

Owner Jerry Millen says he's hopeful Whitmer's exemption will help ease some of the stigma surrounding the substance.

“I hope the federal government will take a look at cannabis a little more seriously, recognize that cannabis is a medicine and that it should be federally legal,” he said.

Jack Thomas contributed to this report.

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