Most Americans believe medical marijuana dispensaries should be considered essential services and permitted to remain open during a coronavirus lockdown, according to a new poll.

YouGov surveyed 5,400 U.S. adults online this week to gauge their opinions on the subject. Of those 53% said medical marijuana dispensaries should be considered essential services, while 26% did not and the remaining 21% said they didn’t know.

Democrats were the most likely to support the dispensaries remaining opening, 62% saying they should be considered essential, and 19% saying they should not. In contrast, 43% of Republicans said yes and 39% said no, while 52% of independents favoured keeping them open.

The term “essential services” barely registered among Americans a week ago. However, it has become the hot topic in the cannabis industry this week, as dozens of states ordered non-essential businesses to close down.

The number of coronavirus deaths soared past the 1,000 mark and the number of cases continues to spiral, so governors have locked states down and restricted social contact in a bid to stem the spread.

Businesses like grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and convenience stores have understandably been allowed to remain open. However, the medical marijuana industry has not proved quite so clear cut.

Dispensaries were forced to shut their doors in the Bay Area after a shelter in place order was issued, but city officials in San Francisco then said they could reopen after the Department of Health clarified they have a medical use.

California has since assigned “essential” status to all cannabis stores. Most states have followed suit, while many have allowed curbside sales, online ordering, and click-and-collect for the first time in an effort to promote safe social distancing.

However, the only medical cannabis dispensary in Vermont has had to close. In Massachusetts, medical marijuana stores were allowed to remain open, but recreational cannabis dispensaries were ordered to close.

Some businesses have taken the decision to shut up shop to protect their staff and customers from catching the virus, even though they were permitted to maintain operations. Yet the American people have spoken and they believe medical marijuana businesses should continue to serve patients during these unprecedented times.

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