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Is Cannabis An Essential Business in My Jurisdiction?

April 6, 2020

By: Kelly Hayes

Governor Gavin Newsom and California's three cannabis licensing agencies have classified Cannabis Businesses as Essential Critical Infrastructure and will allow them to remain open, as long as they act in accordance with local laws and regulations. Since the State Order took effect, many cities and counties have begun implementing stricter regulations on licensed cannabis businesses. Below is a compilation of some local California jurisdictions that have implemented new orders and regulations pertaining to licensed cannabis businesses operating in their jurisdictions.

*Note*
The information provided below is subject to change without notice to this office. Many of these local jurisdictions have implemented specific rules and regulations for cannabis businesses to continue operations. Individuals and businesses looking for additional information, criteria, and guidance relating to their cannabis business should contact their local jurisdiction and/or local licensing agency.


Bureau of Cannabis Control - On Friday, the Bureau of Cannabis Control released further guidance regarding COVID-19, as well as information for licensed dispensaries seeking to conduct curbside pickup. These business will need to apply for Disaster Relief and obtain approval from the Bureau of Cannabis Control and the local jurisdiction prior to conducting curbside pickup. Humboldt County - On March 30, 2020 the Humboldt County Health Officer issued a Public Health Order identifying legal cannabis under 'Healthcare Operations and Essential Infrastructure' - "Agriculture, including but not limited to, food and beverage cultivation, processing and distribution, including but not limited to farming, ranching, fishing, forestry, livestock, legal cannabis, and other medicines."

Humboldt County - On March 30, 2020 the Humboldt County Health Officer issued a Public Health Order identifying legal cannabis under 'Healthcare Operations and Essential Infrastructure' - "Agriculture, including but not limited to, food and beverage cultivation, processing and distribution, including but not limited to farming, ranching, fishing, forestry, livestock, legal cannabis, and other medicines." Mendocino County - The March 24, 2020 Public Health Order identifies legal cannabis as an essential business under "Agriculture". Businesses that are necessary to supply agriculture, food, and beverage cultivation, processing and distribution are also included in the Order. Licensed cannabis retail facilities/dispensaries shall operate only via curbside pickup or delivery.

Mendocino County - The March 24, 2020 Public Health Order identifies legal cannabis as an essential business under "Agriculture". Businesses that are necessary to supply agriculture, food, and beverage cultivation, processing and distribution are also included in the Order. Licensed cannabis retail facilities/dispensaries shall operate only via curbside pickup or delivery.

Sonoma County - The March 31, 2020, County Health Order added Licensed Cannabis businesses to the List of Essential Businesses. The County's Cannabis Program website provides that: "Licensed cannabis businesses are allowed to remain open, including cultivators, processors, manufacturers, distributors, testing labs, dispensaries/retail facilities, and delivery companies providing medical or adult-use cannabis. All cannabis businesses must be closed to the public and employees must follow Social Distancing and Hygiene Requirements. Dispensaries/retail facilities and delivery companies may only sell cannabis and cannabis products via curbside pickup or delivery. Dispensaries/retail facilities selling via curbside pickup should encourage customers to call in their orders ahead of time. Customers do not need a County Medical Marijuana ID Card or a physician's recommendation to purchase cannabis or cannabis products."

Santa Clara County - Recently, Santa Clara County revised their Public Health Order to provide that only Medicinal dispensaries may remain open. The County's website states: "Now, only Medical dispensaries can dispense under healthcare industry exemptions. Suppliers to medical dispensaries and licensed medical growers can operate as well. Non-medical cultivation, supply, and dispensing of cannabis are prohibited, with the exception of deliveries directly to residences. Dispensaries with a mixed clientele of both medical and non-medical customers can do in-person business only with medical customers."

Contra Costa County -The County Health Order does not specifically identify cannabis businesses, but the County's website FAQ states that cannabis may be purchased, but "Only if it is from a licensed medical-cannabis dispensary. Recreational cannabis stores will be closed while the order is in effect."

Santa Cruz County - The March 31, 2020 County Health Order does not specifically identify cannabis businesses. However, the County's Health Order FAQ provides that cannabis may be purchased on a "take-out basis" and allows cannabis "businesses to deliver products to people's residences." Alameda County - The County's Health Order FAQ provides that Medicinal and/or Recreational cannabis businesses may continue to operate. "According to California's cannabis regulatory agencies, cannabis is an essential medicine for many residents, and licensees may continue to operate at this time, as long as their operations comply with local rules and regulations. Any licensee that continues to operate must adopt social distancing and anti-congregating measures and must follow the CDC's Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease at all times."

Alameda County - The County's Health Order FAQ provides that Medicinal and/or Recreational cannabis businesses may continue to operate. "According to California's cannabis regulatory agencies, cannabis is an essential medicine for many residents, and licensees may continue to operate at this time, as long as their operations comply with local rules and regulations. Any licensee that continues to operate must adopt social distancing and anti-congregating measures and must follow the CDC's Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease at all times."
 

City & County of San Francisco - On March 17, 2020 Public Health Order No. C19-08 provided that cannabis dispensaries may continue to operate, but businesses and residents are strongly encouraged to use delivery. This Order was extended by the March 31, 2020 Public Health Order No. C19-07b and remains in effect until May 3, 2020, or until amended or rescinded. Accordingly, these Health Orders provide that: "Because cannabis has several medicinal purposes and is an essential medical treatment for many City residents, cannabis dispensaries are permitted to remain open, but only for delivery or takeaway. Cannabis dispensaries shall not permit products to be used or consumed on-site. In addition, while travel to and from cannabis dispensaries to pick up products is permitted, individuals are strongly encouraged to have cannabis products delivered to their home instead of obtaining them on-site. If in-store pickup is required, to the greatest extent feasible, dispensaries and patrons must comply with social distancing requirements, including by maintaining six-foot social distancing for both employees and members of the public, including any customers standing in line."

Berkeley -The City's Public Health Order prohibits in-store sales of cannabis products. "Cannabis retailers may deliver cannabis products to a qualified patient, caregiver or adult-use customer's place of residence. In addition, curbside pickup of cannabis for medical or adult use adjacent to the storefronts of licensed retailers is permitted. Delivery and curbside pickup shall be conducted in a manner that complies with the social distancing requirements in the Health Officer's Order to the greatest extent practicable." 

Los Angeles - Mayor Eric Garcetti's "Safer at Home Order" provides that cannabis dispensaries and any related or ancillary healthcare services, manufacturers, and suppliers are deemed essential businesses and may remain open. Those businesses with Temporary Approval from the City of Los Angeles' Department of Cannabis Regulation are authorized to stay open. The Department of Cannabis Regulation is continuing to provide updates and information for these businesses on it's website

Long Beach - The  City of Long Beach's Health Officer Order provides that: Only Licensed Medical Cannabis Dispensaries approved by the City to deliver cannabis may provide curbside pickup service to medical patients under the following conditions: 

a) Payment for cannabis and/or cannabis products must be made in advance of the curbside pickup. 
b) Patients must submit proof of a valid government-issued identification and the patient's medical identification card prior to the curbside pickup. 
c) Upon pickup, the medical dispensary must verify that the identification of the patient is the same person who ordered curbside pickup via the presentation of a valid government-issued identification. 
d) Products must be delivered to patients in opaque packaging. 
e) Uniformed and licensed security personnel must be present during all curbside pickup transactions. 
f) All other local and State laws, regulations, and lawful orders are adhered to. 

San Diego - The City is following Governor Newsom's California Executive Order N-33-20 and thereby identifies the cannabis industry as essential. The City's Development Services Department staff issued Memorandum on March 26, 2020, stating that licensed cannabis retailers will be allowed to implement temporary curbside pickup. Although, curbside pickup is prohibited under the City's Municipal Code, the City will not be enforcing those provisions while the State Order remains in effect. 

Cannabis Retailers will be contacted and it is strongly encourage the following Guidelines are followed:
1. Limit curbside pickup to one transaction at a time.
2. Do not bring cannabis products out from behind the secured area unless they have been purchased by a customer.
3. Have security present at each transaction.
4. Ensure all transactions are in direct view of an exterior surveillance camera.
5. Ensure all transactions are recorded by video surveillance.
6. Do money drops in your safe every five curbside pickup transactions.
7. Close curbside pickup at dusk, if possible.
8. Ensure that all other State and local regulations pertaining to cannabis retail and other permit conditions are strictly followed.
9. Implement measures to reduce risk of infection from COVID-19 for dispensary staff and customers, including:

  • Maintaining safe distance between individuals;
  • Wiping down packaging with disinfectant before handing to customers;
  • Frequent disinfecting of packaging counters, cash registers, and other routinely used areas; and
  • Frequent handwashing for curbside workers.


Palm Springs
- On March 16, 2020, the City of Palm Springs Ordered Cannabis Lounges to be closed immediately. However, Cannabis Products may continue to be sold from these locations "for purposes of continuing to offer cannabis products to customers for pick up, or if they are licensed to do so, for delivery, but lounge areas shall not be used." The City's COVID-19 FAQ Orders provides that cannabis retailers and growers are considered "essential" under health care and agriculture sectors of the State's "Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers" guidelines.  

If you have questions about cannabis operations in your jurisdiction, or how the COVID-19 pandemic might affect your business, you can contact one of our cannabis attorneys at: cannabis@murchisonlaw.com

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