As retail outlets close across the U.S. in response to COVID-19, questions remain about the short-term fate of marijuana dispensaries. Now the public has spoken: A new poll from YouGov shows that 53 percent of American adults believe medical marijuana dispensaries are essential services and should remain open while social distancing guidelines are in effect. By contrast, only 26 percent of respondents answered that marijuana dispensaries should not be deemed essential services, and 21 percent responded that they didn’t know.
The data, gathered from nearly 5,400 people, reflects regional differences. Respondents from the Northeast were the most supportive of continued medical marijuana access (57 percent), followed by the West (56 percent), the Midwest (53 percent), and the South (50 percent). There was a two-percent difference between men and women on the issue, with men registering slightly more positively to the question than women.
States like California and Pennsylvania have categorized dispensaries—particularly those serving medical marijuana patients—as essential and on par with grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations. Elsewhere, dispensaries have either been forced to temporarily shut down or pivot to curbside pick-up and delivery only.
Age is a factor on whether Americans think medical marijuana is essential. Millennials between 25 and 34 years old were the most supportive of medical marijuana access during this period (59 percent). Two of the age groups polled—35 to 44-year-olds and 45 to 54-year-olds—tied at 56 percent support, while respondents aged 18 to 24 years and those 55 and over were a bit less likely to consider dispensaries essential services (54 percent and 47 percent, respectively).
Party affiliation also seemed to play a significant role in respondents’ attitudes. Those who identified as Democrats were 9 percent more likely to support medical marijuana access than respondents who identified as Republicans, while Independents took the middle ground between the two.
If you’re a medical marijuana patient, you may be wondering about whether your access to medicine could change in the coming weeks. You’re not alone. More than three million Americans rely on medical marijuana to help with pain, nausea, spasticity, depression, anxiety, and many other conditions. And increasingly, the American public is recognizing their right to medicine.