Are Oregon Cannabis Dispensaries Offering an Essential Service?

Are Oregon cannabis retailers providing an essential service?

On Monday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed Executive Order 20-12 (the EO) mandating the closure of all “non-essential” services and businesses, and advising all citizens to “stay at home to the maximum extent possible.”

That definition of what is deemed “essential” is rapidly becoming paramount as states publish industry guidance for COVID-19. In cases when specific industries are not explicitly included in executive actions, businesses are forced to make tough financial decisions without clear guidance. 

During the week prior to EO 20-12, the Oregon cannabis industry petitioned Governor Brown to include retail cannabis stores among the list of essential services. The Oregon Cannabis Association (OCA) sent an open letter to the Governor. The OCA’s letter made this request, and several others, including increasing purchasing limits to reduce repeat trips, allowing for curbside pickup, and authorizing limited delivery to medical patients. 

In Oregon, retail cannabis stores are allowed to serve both medical and recreational clientele. If cannabis stores close, the state of Oregon would be depriving many patients who rely on retail cannabis stores access to their medicine. If retail cannabis stores remain open, does it make sense to limit access to medicinal patents? These are all questions that the cannabis industry pressed the Governor to address. 

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), which administers the State’s cannabis program, responded to these demands, announcing a few days ago that it had temporarily loosened restrictions to allow curbside pickup of cannabis from stores. 

The Governor did not specifically address the cannabis industry. The EO did NOT list cannabis businesses by name among those that are expressly prohibited from operating. The EO expressly allows continuing to operate businesses that provide “health care, medical, pharmacy” services. Arguably, retail cannabis stores are both medical and pharmacy, since this is where many Oregonians get their medicine. 

In a previous executive order, Governor Brown closed restaurants for dining in, but allowed curbside pickup and delivery. This same model could be extended to cannabis businesses, who already have a lower risk of transmission, and have mitigation methods that exceed that which is possible in a restaurant. 

Until Governor Brown issues specific guidance for the cannabis industry, it appears that retail cannabis stores can continue to provide customer service. Many cannabis retail stores are already taking advanced precautionary measures such as requiring employees to wear gloves when handling product, employing masks that cover the mouth and nose, and limiting the number of customers allowed inside a retail space. 

If you have questions as to how Executive Order 20-12, or how the COVID-19 pandemic might impact your cannabis business, please reach out to schedule a free 20-minute consultation.

March 27, 2020

This post was written by Kight on Cannabis attorney Kamran Aryah. Kight on Cannabis is a law firm founded by attorney Rod Kight that represents legal cannabis businesses. You can contact us by clicking here.

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