San Francisco reversed course Tuesday and said that licensed marijuana dispensaries can serve customers amid emergency restrictions imposed over the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Hours after San Francisco ordered all non-essential businesses to cease operations, city officials clarified that recreational and medical marijuana dispensaries could remain open.

“Cannabis is an essential medicine for many San Francisco residents. Dispensaries can continue to operate as essential businesses during this time, while practicing social distancing and other public health recommendations,” the San Francisco Department of Public Health announced on Twitter.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, a Democrat, reiterated on Twitter that marijuana is a “needed medicine” for many residents and that dispensaries may accordingly remain open.

“The Department of Public Health today clarified that since cannabis has medical uses, dispensaries will be allowed to operate as essential businesses just as pharmacies are allowed to do,” Ms. Breed explained at a press conference Tuesday.

The city’s clarification came not long after emergency measures took effect Tuesday morning meant to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the highly contagious and potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

San Francisco residents have been ordered to shelter-in-place, or remain at their place of residence, except to conduct essential activities, business and government functions.

Non-essential businesses have also been ordered to close, effectively shuttering most establishments that are not grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, banks, laundromats or daycare centers, among a few others exempted.

An official order issued by the city’s health department Tuesday stressed that residents may travel to marijuana dispensaries to pick up their purchases, but that pot shops should deliver to patrons “to the greatest extent possible and allowed by law.”

Individuals who do pick-up their purchases in-person from dispensaries amid the pandemic should maintain at least six feet of space between themselves and others, the order said.

San Francisco and five surrounding counties in the Bay Area enacted shelter-in-place measures Tuesday as the number of cases of COVID-19 across the U.S. continues to swell.

Thousands of cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed across all 50 states, with more than 100 deaths from the disease reported as of Wednesday this week.

“We know these measures will significantly disrupt people’s day-to-day lives, but they are absolutely necessary,” Ms. Breed said this week. “This is going to be a defining moment for our city, and we all have a responsibility to do our part to protect our neighbors and slow the spread of this virus by staying at home unless it is absolutely essential to go outside.”

San Francisco has confirmed 51 cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday morning, according to the city’s health department. None of those cases have resulted in death.

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