Michigan marijuana companies have asked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to classify cannabis as an “essential item” so that they can continue operating.

The governor has declared a state of emergency after dozens of people in the state were infected by the coronavirus and three deaths were confirmed. It means that all schools are closed, gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited and theatres, bars, gyms, and casinos have had to shut their doors.

Essential businesses like grocery stores, supermarkets and food delivery companies can maintain operations. The Michigan Cannabis Industry Association has written to Whitmer in a bid to be awarded “essential” status due to its medicinal value.

The letter reminded the governor that Michigan has a marijuana patient population of 264,147, making it one of the largest programs in the country. It added that cannabis can reduce anxiety and stress, which could be crucial during these troubling times.

“Initial indications are that our letter is well received,” said the MCIA, which pledged to update members on its progress soon.

Cannabis stores in the Bay Area of California were forced to shut on Monday as part of a shelter in place order. However, they then reopened in San Francisco after the Department of Public clarified that cannabis is used for medical purposes.

In Nevada, the cannabis industry has been deemed essential and businesses like 1933 Industries and MJ Holdings Inc. are continuing to operate. MJ Holdings said sales have picked up “dramatically” over the past few weeks.

“We fully expect to close-out the first quarter with strong sales and we anticipate a significant increase in year-over-year quarterly revenues,” said president Terrence Tierney.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also declared marijuana dispensaries to be essential businesses, allowing them to remain open in the event of a lockdown. Colorado is another state to assign essential status to cannabis stores, although one has decided to close voluntarily in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19, the respiratory disease it causes.

There have now been more than 10,800 confirmed cases in the USA, and at least 161 deaths. Authorities are desperately trying to contain the spread while a vaccine is sought. Medical authorities in China said yesterday that a Japanese flu drug called favipiravir is “clearly effective” in treating coronavirus patients.

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