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Marijuana Dispensaries Deemed Essential During COVID-19

Posted by Steve Karimi | May 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

With the spread of the novel coronavirus through the state of Washington, life has changed drastically for most people. These changes were largely due to government-mandated shutdowns which forced people to stay at home and also forced businesses to close their doors. This was, however, unless those businesses were deemed to be essential. Essential businesses included home improvement stores like Home Depot, as well as grocery stores so that people could continue to eat. Also included in that category were marijuana dispensaries operating on both a medical and a recreational basis.

Who is Essential?

On March 23, Governor Inslee issued a Proclamation which ordered people to stay at home except as necessary to maintain critical infrastructure sectors. What exactly, these infrastructure sectors are was also outlined in the order. Included in this list was the cannabis sector, and “workers supporting cannabis retail and dietary supplement retail.”

This did not come with its own set of problems, however, for the dispensaries themselves. For example, CEO of Canna West Seattle Maryam Mirnateghi referenced the fact that the workers in the store were going through 5,000 gloves a week in order to try to keep things in a sanitary state. In addition, she described the struggles of trying to balance personnel issues when half of her staff were staying home with symptoms of or exposure to COVID-19, and the other half were being forced to work overtime to try to keep things afloat. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the fact that marijuana is still illegal federally means that dispensaries are not eligible for any of the measures, like the Paycheck Protection Program, that has been instituted by the federal government to try and help small businesses weather the storm.

What This Means for You

The short answer is that you will continue to be able to buy, for both medical and recreational purposes, cannabis products from local retailers. However, it is important to remember that Washington laws still govern these products. Because the Washington patchwork of laws on the subject is confusing, here are a few key things to remember:

  • Though marijuana possession is legal, there are limits. It is only legal to possess one ounce or less of marijuana, and it must be for personal use—it can't be sold or distributed to another person. In addition, it is illegal for someone under the age of 21 to possess it in any circumstance.
  • It is illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana. However, the exact amount can be a bit confusing because there is no great way to generalize amounts of marijuana and its effects across the population.
  • The penalties for a marijuana charge can range from a felony, to a misdemeanor, to nothing at all. This will largely depend on the amount in question but can also vary depending on other circumstances.

Contact Steve Karimi Law Office Today

If Washington's confusing marijuana laws have left you in a tough spot, you want an experienced attorney to help guide you through the process. Steve Karimi's experience as both a prosecutor in Seattle and a criminal defense lawyer can help you determine what your options are and help you fight the drug charges in an effective way. For a free consultation, call 206-621-8777.

About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.


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