By Rich McKay
(Reuters) – Millions of California’s Bay area residents can still legally light up as cannabis facilities are exempt from a cornonavirus lockdown that has shuttered most businesses in San Francisco and nearby cities.
Cannabis store managers say they have lines longer than local grocery shops and waiting room only. Most staff at a dozen stores reached Tuesday evening said they were too busy to talk to Reuters.
“Oh man, we’re flooded. As soon as people heard we were still open, they started lining up,” said Anthony Barajas, the general manager of Cana Culture in San Jose.
“Once all the toilet paper got sold out, they knew they needed some relief,” he said.
Bars, clubs, gyms and other businesses all closed Monday under one of the strictest orders made so far in the United States aimed at stemming the coronavirus pandemic. Around 7 million people reside in the area affected by the orders.
Cannabis stores and vendors join the short list of “essential” places that can stay open along with grocery stores, pharmacies and doctors offices, the San Jose Mercury News and other media reported, citing the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control and local officials.
California has more than 500 confirmed cases of coronavirus and at least 12 people have died.
Cana Culture is following strict rules, such as no more than 10 people in the facility at a time, either shopping or relaxing in a smoking area. Outside, the store’s security officers enforce a store rule that everyone has to stand about an arm’s length away from each other.
“We’re a necessary service,” said Barajas. “People need this for medical purposes and recreation. The public still needs access to lab-tested medicine.”
“It’s been steady from the time we open right up until we close, with people still waiting outside,” Barajas said. “And we’re still allowed to do curb-side service.”
He added: “I guess the state still needs some tax revenue while everything else is closed.”
(Reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)