November 11, 2020

Cannabis has had a long journey toward legalization in California. For more information, please read our article The Timeline of Cannabis Legislation in California.

In March 2020, California faced a statewide lock-down due to the coronavirus. As non-essential businesses shut down to allow employees to shelter-in-place, the cannabis industry remained open. California Governor Newsom held cannabis dispensaries on par with pharmacies, allowing them to remain open as an essential business – even for recreational sales.

In fact, California’s Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) issued an order that the cannabis industry was an “essential critical infrastructure,” allowing for continued sales. Nicole Elliott, the senior adviser in California on cannabis, commented that recreational sales were allowed to continue as well, to keep smokers away from the black market. Following California’s lead, Vermont, Illinois, Michigan, and Colorado allowed marijuana businesses to remain open from the beginning if the shutdowns.

Shortly after the CDPH issued its order, the Bureau of Cannabis Control sent out a letter notifying cannabis licensees that cannabis remains an essential medicine, and therefore licensees may continue to operate under local rules and regulations.

Los Angeles County released an order stating all cannabis dispensaries with a medicinal license and related healthcare services would remain open. This included manufacturers and suppliers, which were defined as related healthcare services. This definition allowed cultivators and manufacturers supplying cannabis to a dispensary to remain open.

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This article is based on the law as of the date posted at the top of the article. This article does not constitute the provision of legal advice, and does not by itself create an attorney-client relationship with Eskridge Law.