Marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco have been permitted to reopen after the Department of Public Health clarified that cannabis is used for medical purposes.

Stores in the Bay Area were closed on Tuesday as part of a regionwide shelter in place order designed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. COVID-19 has killed at least 115 Americans and more than 7,500 people have been infected across the country.

There have been more than 470 cases in California and the Golden State has seen 13 confirmed deaths. Ten counties in the Bay Area, Central California, and Palm Springs all issued shelter in place orders on Tuesday.

This order directs all residents to stay at home as much as possible in order to reduce the coronavirus spread. It covers around 20% of California residents, while less stringent measures are in place in other counties.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health initially ordered all dispensaries and delivery services to close on Monday night. However, it has now performed a U-turn.

“The Department of Public Health clarified that since marijuana has medical uses, dispensaries will be allowed to operate as essential businesses just as pharmacies are allowed to do,” said Mayor London Breed during a press conference at City Hall.

The shelter in place directive lasts for three weeks. Grocery stores and pharmacies are exempt, as they are considered essential businesses, and cannabis dispensaries now fall into that category too.

Campaign group NORML began lobbying the city of San Francisco to change its mind, reminding lawmakers that many people depend on cannabis for treating a raft of medical conditions. The city then reversed its decision.

San Jose’s marijuana dispensaries also remain open as essential services, allowing residents to secure enough cannabis to see them through these unprecedented times.

The same is true in neighbouring Nevada. Leading producer 1933 Industries provided an update today, reassuring the market that it would continue operating as an essential business in the Silver State.

Dispensaries are still operating there and elsewhere across the U.S. Staff and customers are encouraged to practice social distancing, and storeowners have been told to move lines outside onto the street in order to keep people apart.

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