McAllister Garfield Statement About COVID-19 Impacts on California Cannabis


As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic continues to impact everyday life in California and beyond, the State’s cannabis industry is bracing for what’s ahead. While operators and consumers wait for official guidance from the Bureau of Cannabis Control and Governor Newsom, many California cannabis businesses remain open where permitted. Governor Newsom has not indicated that cannabis businesses would be asked to shutter. However, local governments can shut down businesses. Similar to California’s cannabis business licensing scheme, we’re seeing inconsistent approaches from municipality to municipality in determining whether cannabis businesses shall be permitted to operate.

Los Angeles has ordered all restaurants, nightclubs and bars to close except for takeout and delivery until March 31, 2020. However, a decision has yet to be made whether cannabis businesses will have to close their doors to promote public health. The Department of Cannabis Regulation remains available to answer questions by email and phone, but has closed its Downtown office to walk-ins and in-person meetings. The Los Angeles City Council is currently determining whether cannabis businesses will be able to remain operational. Cannabis businesses remain open in Orange County and San Diego County, despite both municipalities issuing emergency orders directing all non-essential businesses to shutter. We will continue to monitor developments throughout Southern California. 

After initially being order to shut by City officials, San Francisco dispensaries were declared “essential” and allowed to reopen. The San Francisco Department of Health notified the public that dispensaries may remain open by tweeting “Cannabis is an essential medicine for many San Francisco residents. Dispensaries can continue to operate as essential businesses during this time, while practicing social distancing and other public health recommendations.”

On a positive note, consumers are flocking to California dispensaries.

There’s also been an uptick in delivery orders statewide. It’s being reported that retail sales are up between 25-100%. Additionally, many dispensaries are adding a curbside pick-up service to help California residents safely obtain their cannabis. With a focus on social distancing, cannabis businesses need to begin preparing for the possibility of greater restrictions on their operations. In municipalities such as Santa Clarita where a shelter-in-place prohibit residents from leaving their vehicles, curbside pick-up has been a clever solution to an otherwise prohibitive directive. Additionally, retailers continue to advocate for the allowance of state-wide delivery to both minimize the risk to public health and create safe access for medical patients in all jurisdictions.

Despite the uncertainty associated with the novel coronavirus, the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the California Department of Health, and Cal Cannabis remain open and are answering questions. We have been in constant contact with the Bureau of Cannabis Control throughout the pandemic. These agencies are working with licensees to navigate the inevitable and novel issues that arise due to COVID-19. We will update you once The Bureau of Cannabis Control and the State of California issue further guidance relating to COVID-19 and its effects on cannabis operations. McAllister Garfield is prepared to help counsel clients through these unprecedented challenges in the coming weeks and months.


The McAllister Garfield team