Cannabis dispensaries in Washington will be allowed to remain open during the closure of nonessential businesses ordered by Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday. The Democratic governor issued the stay-at-home order in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.
Inslee’s order went into effect for residents immediately on Monday afternoon and will be effective for businesses on Wednesday. The governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order is slated to last for at least two weeks.
The order requires all businesses deemed non essential to cease operations that cannot be completed by workers remotely from home. Washington residents were directed to heed state public health advisories to stay home except to pursue an essential activity.
Businesses and services deemed essential are permitted to remain in operation and were directed to enact social distancing protocols to protect employees and customers. The state issued a 14-page list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” to clarify the businesses and services that will be permitted to keep their employees on the job.
Among the list are employees that work at essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, take-out restaurants, and childcare providers. The list also includes health care and public health workers and worksites including hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other medical facilities such as blood banks and “cannabis retailers.”
Social Distancing Is Key
To stay open for business, cannabis retailers are required to limit the number of customers that are permitted in the store at one time and to initiate social distancing protocols. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) has also allowed dispensaries to allow customers to pick up their orders outside the business at curbside, a practice previously only permitted for medical cannabis patients.
“Our intent is to allow additional ways for you to engage your customers without having to have your doors open for business,” the agency wrote.
The WSLCB has also allowed licensed bars and restaurants to offer delivery and curbside pickup of spirits, wine, and beer. Restaurants can include beer or cider in growlers, kegs, or factory-sealed containers while wine and liquor must be offered only in containers sealed at the factory. Orders from restaurants must also include food.
“Our goal is to do whatever we can to help businesses during this time,” said Brian Smith, communications director at the Liquor and Cannabis Board. “We can’t change what’s in the law, but we can do other things.”
Washington joins several other jurisdictions that have determined that cannabis retailers can remain open during mandatory closures called in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, including Michigan, New York, California, and Ohio.