Medical Marijuana Considered ‘Essential’ Amid Coronavirus Shutdowns

Attorney George F. IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On March 17, 2020, amid Coronavirus shutdowns, multiple cities and state health departments have declared medical marijuana dispensaries essential to health care. Many cities are closing or considering closing business and retail operations to stop the spread of the virus. Other “essential” businesses that will remain open include pharmacies, grocery stores, and financial institutions.
As of this date (3/23/2020), Florida still has not joined the ones declaring them to be essential.

“Essential Medicine”

After residents were told to stay home, a number of cities revised their position in other states and deemed cannabis “an essential medicine,” allowing stores to stay open.

San Fransico’s Mayor London Breed announced adjustments to the city’s public health order clarifying that dispensaries and marijuana deliveries are critical. “In terms of the cannabis dispensaries, the Department of Public Health [in California] today clarified that since cannabis has medical uses, dispensaries will be allowed to operate as essential businesses, just as pharmacies are allowed to do,” she added.

According to the New York State Department of Health, “In the event nonessential businesses are forced to shut down due to COVID-19, registered organizations in the medical marijuana program will be considered essential and allowed to remain open because they are considered medical providers.” Read the guidance issued by the state of New York.

Following right along, Illinois’ Department of Financial and Professional Regulation issued new, temporary guidelines, relaxing where medical marijuana sales can take place in order to “help reduce contact between individuals.” The state will allow medical dispensaries to sell cannabis “on the dispensary’s property or on a public walkway or curb adjacent to the dispensary.”  Read the temporary guidance issued by Illinois.

In addition, other states, such as Michigan, Massachusetts, and Washington have issued bulletins relaxing regulations regarding delivery and in-store transactions in order to limit contact between patients and vendors.

The question is, will Florida and other states continue to follow suit if necessary? On March 16, 2020, Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis enacted Emergency Order 20-002 to temporarily allow qualified physicians to use telemedicine. However, so far, there has not been any guidance issued specifically on medical marijuana dispensaries. View Florida’s Emergency Order 20-002.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical and Recreational Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists, and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly help to complete and submit the applications for renewals, registration, permitting and/or licensing, complying with Florida law. We also represent health facilities, health clinics, and pharmacies facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at


Booker, Brakkton. “Amid Coronavirus, San Francisco, New York, Deem Marijuana Businesses ‘Essential’.” NPR. (March 17, 2020). Web.

Reisman, Sam. “Medical Pot Deemed ‘Essential’ Amid COVID-19 Shutdowns.” Law360. (March 17, 2020). Web.

Smith, Jeff. “Medical cannabis businesses increasingly deemed ‘essential’ during coronavirus pandemic.” Med Biz Daily. (March 18, 2020). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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