Denver Closes Recreational Marijuana Dispensaries to Limit COVID-19

Denver Closes Recreational Marijuana Dispensaries to Limit COVID-19
Lindsay Bartlett
Update: Hours after announcing that recreational marijuana dispensaries and liquor stores would close from March 24 to April 10 in a citywide stay-at-home order to limit the spread of coronavirus, Mayor Michael Hancock reversed the inclusion of the respective businesses in the shutdown order.

Less than a day after Governor Jared Polis had deemed recreational marijuana stores critical businesses (although limiting them to curbside pick-up and delivery), the City of Denver disagreed. Mayor Michael Hancock ordered all recreational pot shops to close by 5 p.m. March 24 and stay closed until April 10, as part of a stay-at-home order to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed to remain open in Denver.

The dispensary decision was announced by Marley Bordovsky of the Denver City Attorney's Office during a 2 p.m. gathering today, March 23, during which Hancock announced a citywide stay-at-home order, listing grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, gas stations, laundromats and a small number of other businesses as essential, which will allow them to remain open during the lockdown. Like rec dispensaries, liquor stores were deemed non-essential by Hancock, and will have to close until April 10, according to Bordovsky. But restaurants will be able to continue to offer both food and alcohol to go and for delivery.

One day before Denver's decision, Polis stopped short of a statewide order calling on Coloradans to stay home, instead ordering businesses to cut their in-person staff by 50 percent (the rest should work at home) while the nation fights the spread of coronavirus. Polis included dispensaries on the essential list, but only allowed medical stores to remain open, with recreational stores allowed to offer curbside pick-up.

Earlier today, Denver's recreational dispensaries were scrambling to comply with Polis's order. Now it looks like they'll have to shut altogether until April 10 — and even that "may be extended as needed," according to a statement from the city.

Because Polis's order doesn't take effect until March 24, Denver's recreational pot shops can continue operating through today, and could even go to curbside sales until 5 p.m. March 24, when Hancock's order takes effect.

But after that, if you want to buy recreational pot in Colorado, you'll have to go outside of Denver.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell