In the midst of a global pandemic, Michigan residents are smoking more cannabis than ever before. Just two weeks ago, medical marijuana sales were at a record high across the Great Lake State, with over $6 million in medical cannabis having been sold between March 9th and March 15th. Recreational cannabis sales also spiked during the same time period, with dispensaries selling over $4 million in adult-use bud that week.  In response to the now imminent threat of the coronavirus, Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has recently moved to close businesses throughout the state by way of executive order.  Marijuana dispensaries are now only permitted to operate via home delivery and curbside pickup.  Despite the new regulations imposed by the state-wide lockdown, cannabis sales have continued to rise.  Cannabis industry leaders in Michigan have requested that the Governor declare cannabis as an essential item. The Michigan Cannabis Industry Association (MCIA) announced on their website last week, “Today we sent a letter to [Gov. Gretchen Whitmer] and her administration advocating that cannabis be deemed an essential item and that recommending physicians be permitted to see patients via telecommunications. Initial indications are that our letter is well received and we will continue to update you on our progress.” In the letter to Governor Whitmer, MCIA Executive Director Robin Schneider emphasized the importance of dispensaries staying open during the crisis, writing, “Our medical system needs to be available to prioritize the coronavirus pandemic and must not be bombarded by medical marijuana patients returning for traditional treatment.”  “To further reduce the risk of exposure we respectfully request that the state swiftly allow physicians to evaluate patients and write recommendations for both new medical marijuana patients and renewing patients using telecommunications. This action which is not currently available to us will help flatten the curve by keeping our most vulnerable patients at home.” The letter also included the following: “Studies have shown that cannabis can reduce anxiety and stress, and we believe continued access to this product during this time is pertinent. More importantly, patients with cancer, AIDS, chronic pain, seizures, and pediatric patients have reduced or replaced pharmaceuticals, including opiates, with medical cannabis.” Michigan legalized cannabis for adult-use back in 2018, however, sales didn’t officially start until December of 2019. As the nation continues to face increased measures, including social distancing and tighter restrictions on travel and commerce, it is possible that pot smokers are stocking up in an effort to stay home. Although the virus has likely played a role, some are pointing to the legalization of recreational marijuana as the reason behind the spike in sales. In a recent interview with the Lansing City Pulse, owner of the Lansing dispensary Stateside Wellness and Pure Options, Sam Usman Jr., expressed some skepticism that the rise in sales was solely due to the pandemic, saying, “We’re definitely keeping steady. Sales have increased with adult-use coming into play, but I don’t know if I can attribute that to any of the hysteria about coronavirus.”

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