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Indispensable: Why Marijuana Dispensaries Are Considered Essential During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Some people were shocked when a great many states and cities -- at least those in which marijuana has been legalized -- deemed pot dispensaries to be essential businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

In this segment from Motley Fool Live, Healthcare and Cannabis Bureau Chief Corinne Cardina Jurney and longtime Motley Fool contributor Eric Volkman discuss this somewhat unexpected development in the ever up-is-down world of 2020.

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Corinne Cardina: Yes, and I think another way that we've seen how people have really warmed up to that is how cannabis has been viewed in the coronavirus pandemic. A lot of governors have classified dispensaries as an essential service.

Eric, is that surprising to you? What does that tell us, and what have you observed about the cannabis industry over the last nine or so months?

Eric Volkman: Is it surprising? Slightly yes, because it's funny how quickly accepted it's become in certain parts of the country. I'm based in California, so maybe my perspective is a little skewed, but it didn't seem to be too deliberative of a process when a lot of these states declared that marijuana was an essential service. Because it's like liquor stores -- you want people to forget about their problems and this awful thing that's raging all around them.

But yes, the surprise came in how uncontroversial it was. There didn't seem to be much of an outcry, or any kind of protests like, "How dare you do something like this? It's the devil's medication or something." It sailed through.

It was the sensible thing to do, not least because, let's be honest, this industry is teetering. It's not doing well. It's struggling everywhere really, even in California here which is very weed friendly, it's a difficult business to be in, and I think a lot of producers, a lot of retailers would've had a hard time staying solvent. They already do. Had they been subject to some of the shutdowns other types of retailers were subject to, I'm not sure they could've survived.

So there's that aspect of it too. If you are the governor of the state you don't want an industry, even if it's relatively small scale and serves only a small portion of the population, you don't want it to collapse. That has all sorts of bad knock-on effects.

But yes, it is surprising how it didn't seem to be. Massachusetts was a little bit of a different story. They waffled a little bit. "We're going to keep them closed." They couldn't really seem to make up their mind. But for the most part, in most states where medical weed is legal, it was not that much of a process or that much of a debate, so yes, surprising in that respect.

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