As the coronavirus spread across the country in March, and stay-at-home orders began to go into effect, every state with a regulated cannabis system allowed weed sales to continue in some form, deeming medical-marijuana businesses essential during the pandemic, along with groceries and pharmacies. This, The New York Times declared, was “official recognition that for some Americans, cannabis is as necessary as milk and bread.”
This is a triumph for marijuana advocates. However, the patchwork of emergency orders during coronavirus has been confusing and difficult to navigate for recreational, or adult-use, cannabis businesses, projected to hit $12 billion in retail sales in the U.S. this year. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Barker issued an order allowing medical-marijuana dispensaries to stay open, but halted recreational sales. In Colorado, recreational pot shops are limited to curbside pickup, while medical dispensaries can stay open. In Nevada, adult-use sales are only allowed through home delivery. It’s tough to keep track, since laws vary widely from state to state.
Despite the widespread acceptance of medicinal marijuana, some business owners are pushing back against the distinction between medical and recreational. The distinction can be frustrating, since all cannabis products are derived from the same plant — it’s simply the purpose of using it that differs. Some people smoke a joint to get high. Others depend on it as prescription medicine. Yet for countless others, their reason for use falls somewhere in between.