Congresswoman Alexandria Osacio-Cortez has thrown her weight behind efforts to keep cannabis stores open during the coronavirus lockdown.

Marijuana dispensaries have been deemed “essential” businesses in a number of states, along with grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies and liquor stores. However, Massachusetts ruled that only medical marijuana dispensaries could stay open, while recreational cannabis stores were forced to close.

AOC conducted a social media question and answer session on Instagram Stories today and she was asked about cannabis stores remaining open. “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, so you’ve got to make a decision one way or another,” she said.

Most states have also assigned essential status to liquor stores, although the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board – which has a monopoly on the off-premise market – has shut all 600 of its stores.

Most Americans believe medical marijuana dispensaries should be considered essential services and permitted to remain open during the coronavirus lockdown, according to a YouGov survey of 5,400 U.S. adults last week. However, they were not asked about recreational marijuana.

Democrats were more likely to favor keeping cannabis stores open than Republicans. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is considered a moderate Republican, but he said it is necessary to shut recreational cannabis stores due to the number of out of state shoppers that visit.

Some other states in New England have not legalized adult-use cannabis, so the 42 recreational dispensaries in Massachusetts regularly welcome tourists. Baker believes that is dangerous at a time when the coronavirus is rampaging through the country.

More than 200,000 Americans have now been infected by COVID-19, and the death toll has gone past 4,500.

Cannabis sales soared as consumers across the country prepared for a lengthy period of isolation while authorities try to contain the spread. Since news of the respiratory illness surfaced, consumers have switched from buds and vapes to edibles and tinctures in an effort to protect their lungs.

Marijuana dispensary owners have protested Baker’s decision to force their closure, but he said reopening them is “a non-starter” during the outbreak.

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