Poll: Majority of Americans View Medical Marijuana as ‘Essential’

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The coronavirus pandemic has forced thousands of “non-essential” businesses -- from movie theaters to museums -- to temporarily shutter as America works to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

One industry still deemed essential during the outbreak, however, is marijuana. Most states are allowing both medical and recreational dispensaries to continue operating, though in some places storefronts are limited to curbside or delivery services only.  

A majority of Americans agree that cannabis is essential, according to a recent YouGov poll that found 53% of U.S. adults believe medical marijuana dispensaries should remain open throughout the coronavirus epidemic. 

The survey, conducted between March 24 - 27, asked 5,369 adults whether they believed “medical marijuana dispensaries should or should not be considered essential services.”

Only 26% of respondents said medical marijuana dispensaries should not be considered essential, while 21% were not sure.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, respondents who identified as democrat (62%) believe marijauna dispensaries are essential businesses. Meanwhile, 52% of independents and 43% of republicans polled said medical dispensaries should remain open during the outbreak.

As of March 25, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), an organization promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research, counted 18 states that had declared cannabis businesses “essential.” That number has since grown

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Interestingly, 57% of individuals based in the Northeast who responded to the YouGov poll said they believed medical dispensaries were essential, the highest of any region. 

In Massachusetts, the only Northeastern market with both medical and recreational retail dispensaries, Governor Charlie Baker said medical marijuana stores could continue to operate while adult-use businesses had to close. 

His rationale? Customers will cross state lines to buy cannabis and further the spread of COVID-19, a decision that could force some recreational shops to close their doors permanently, according to the Boston Globe

However, Baker’s order fails to consider those individuals who use over-the-counter cannabis for anxiety or stress relief, or veterans who are unable to obtain a medical marijuana card, and do not purchase from medical dispensaries. 

In response, several Massachusetts-based cannabis operators penned a letter to state officials and expressed their frustration with the ruling.

“We know from experience that tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of residents do, in fact, consider cannabis essential, which in turn makes our services essential,” they wrote.

According to YouGov, nearly 30% of those who reported using marijuana said they were consuming more cannabis than usual over the last two weeks.

Recall that numerous polls conducted throughout 2019 consistently found that Americans are in favor of legalizing cannabis.

Currently, 42 states and Washington D.C. are under stay-at-home orders

Meanwhile, eight republican governors in Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming are continuing to ignore the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

As of press time, the number of worldwide confirmed cases of COVID-19 has topped 1.3 million, while the number of deaths has reached 72,638, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the U.S., meanwhile, there are 347,003 confirmed cases and 10,335 deaths.


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