NORML’s Statement Regarding the Designation of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries as “Essential Services”

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is issuing the following statements regarding the continued operation of medical cannabis dispensaries during the COVID crisis.

“NORML commends the decision of various state governments and local jurisdictions during this pandemic to designate medical cannabis facilities as ‘essential’ to the community. This designation permits them to continue to provide important services to patients who rely on them,” stated NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. “There are several million state-licensed medical cannabis patients in America. Because many of these patients are among our more vulnerable populations, it is essential that they maintain uninterrupted, regulated access to lab-tested products during this time. Policymakers must not push these patients to the illicit marketplace because unregulated products may contain contaminants, adulterants, molds, pesticides, or other components that could potentially endanger their health.”

Altieri added: “Further, NORML advocates that these facilities be permitted and encouraged to deliver products directly to patients and the elderly so that they can continue to engage in social distancing, as recommended by most public health departments. For those facilities that continue to maintain operations for on-site retail sales, NORML encourages them to engage in recommended best practices in order to keep both their employees and their customers safe. This includes frequent sanitization of shelving and other public spaces, limits on the total number of customers permitted to congregate together at one time, and potentially imposing specific hours of operation for elderly or other higher-risk patients.”

NORML has previously provided guidelines for safe and best practices regarding cannabis consumption during this time. These guidelines are especially important for patients. They include: whenever possible, avoiding the intake of combustive smoke and seeking alternative delivery options such as tinctures and edibles; not engaging in the sharing of cannabis cigarettes or other devices (such as pipes or vaporizers) with others; properly cleaning your devices, and avoiding online scams and claims with regard to so-called cannabis-based COVID-19 ‘cures.’

Finally, NORML would like once again to reaffirm its longstanding position regarding the need for state laws to recognize and to permit patients to engage in personal cultivation. Permitting such activities ensures that patients possess a consistent, known supply of their medicine and that their access remains affordable. In those jurisdictions where home cultivation is not a legal option at this time, we strongly encourage dispensaries to be mindful of their patients’ needs and income limitations and, whenever possible, to price their products accordingly.


NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high-quality marijuana that is safe, convenient, and affordable.

Find out more at and read our factsheets on the most common misconceptions and myths regarding reform efforts around the country at

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