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Why Are Marijuana Dispensaries Considered Essential?

Why Are Marijuana Dispensaries Considered Essential?


Coming into our third month in isolation, many of us are beginning to struggle to remember a time when we could visit friends and family when we could leave the house without masks when we could go to any store at any time of day. Now, in most states, the only retail businesses legally allowed to operate are those deemed to offer essential products and services, like hospitals, grocery stores, and energy providers. Thankfully, marijuana dispensaries are considered essential in most states that permit the legal sale of cannabis products for medicinal or recreational use — but why?

Read on to learn the reasons behind marijuana’s designation as an essential good.

Marijuana Is a Medical Treatment

A total of 34 states have passed legislation that permits the sale of marijuana products for medicinal use. In these states, marijuana is treated as a specialty prescription; users who seek the medical-grade products can only obtain them by receiving a recommendation for use from a qualified healthcare professional and then by visiting a licensed medical marijuana dispensary.

Typically, the conditions treated with medicinal marijuana are not benign. In most cases, marijuana is a last-ditch attempt to control a condition that is all but impossible to treat with more traditional medical methods and equally impossible to live with untreated. Every state has a unique list of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana prescriptions, but they usually include serious disorders like epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis, wasting syndrome, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and others.

Because marijuana cannot legally be sold anywhere but dispensaries, those who need weed to manage their conditions need to be able to visit dispensaries to acquire their treatment. Demanding all medical dispensaries to close would be like commanding those with health conditions to suffer for the duration of the COVID crisis. This would be akin to compelling diabetics to go without insulin or those with high blood pressure to forego their medication. To ensure humane treatment of everyone suffering from a medical disorder, medical dispensaries (at least) must be deemed essential and remain open.

Marijuana Helps With Mental Health

Often, those with mental conditions are recommended by doctors to use marijuana to help reduce anxiety and stress and moderate their moods; some qualifying conditions for marijuana prescriptions include clinical anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the like. However, plenty of non-medical users rely on weed for mental stability, relaxation, fun, and other beneficial psychological effects. Especially during this period of heightened fear and stress, marijuana could be a much-needed crutch to help the population survive and thrive.

In cities and states where legal recreational marijuana products are available, the drug is akin to alcohol: Adults over 21 are allowed to purchase the intoxicant and use a specified amount of it safely and legally. Typically, users partake in recreational marijuana for similar purposes to alcohol: to escape thoughts of certain problems, to improve attitude, to increase sociability, to relax, and more. Because some people prefer weed to alcohol, which is common in places like Seattle where marijuana use has been legal for some time, it is only fair that if alcohol shops remain open and essential, pot shops should be, too.

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Marijuana Keeps People at Home

Local governments are issuing and extending stay-at-home orders in the hopes of curbing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping as many people as possible out of hospitals and safe from death. Closing businesses is a good way to ensure that people stay at home; if there is nowhere to go, what is the point of leaving the house?

Allowing people to continue accessing marijuana is another good way to keep people at home. In most states, it is illegal to use marijuana outside private residences, and because marijuana primarily acts as a depressant — i.e. it slows down brain function and relaxes muscles — once a person gets high, they aren’t likely to venture into the world and come into contact with the disease. As a result, if rates of marijuana use are higher, the rates of people trying to leave their homes will be lower. Though this isn’t a primary reason that dispensaries have been deemed essential, it is a significant benefit to governments struggling to contain the disease.

To many, marijuana is a vital treatment they cannot forego, even in times of crisis. To others, marijuana is a fun distraction from the stress of everyday life. In either case, marijuana is essential to health and wellness — and that is why dispensaries have been deemed essential across the U.S.