Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said on Tuesday that states where liquor stores are considered essential businesses that can operate during the coronavirus outbreak should also be allowing marijuana dispensaries to stay open, for consistency’s sake.
In an Instagram Stories session, the congresswoman took questions from followers, including one person who posed the question: “Do you think dispensaries should be considered essential businesses?”
“I’d say that if your state is deeming liquor stores to be an essential business, it doesn’t seem consistent as to why a liquor store would be essential but a dispensary wouldn’t,” Ocasio-Cortez replied. “You’ve got to make a decision one way or another.”
This has been an area of particular focus for the cannabis industry and advocates, who have pushed for continued access to marijuana products amid this pandemic, albeit with certain social distancing safety protocols in place.
Most legal states, including California and Colorado have determined that all marijuana shops are essential services. Regulators in many states have also encouraged delivery services and curbside pickup to avoid groups congregating and potentially spreading COVID-19.
In Massachusetts, however, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has limited the essential services designation for medical cannabis businesses only, effectively shuttering recreational marijuana dispensaries for the time being. That has led to employee layoffs and furloughs.
Baker argued on Tuesday that the move is necessary because as one of the only states in the Northeast to allow adult-use sales, Massachusetts ran the risk of attracting out-of-state visitors and thus further spreading coronavirus if the adult-use stores were allowed to remain open.
Advocates have argued that shuttering these businesses could present its own set of health and safety risks, as some consumers will go back to the illicit market if regulated stores are closed.
According to a recent poll, a majority of Americans believe that medical cannabis dispensaries are “essential services” that should remain open.
Meanwhile, in Ocasio-Cortez’s home state of New York, lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) failed to reach a deal to include marijuana legalization in the annual budget due this week.