Once again, cannabidiol (CBD) has found itself in a gray area, although this time it’s not due to its legality. Proprietors of CBD retail shops and dispensaries throughout the Milwaukee area were surprised to find out on Wednesday, March 31, they were considered “nonessential” businesses under the State of Wisconsin’s “Safer at Home” order.
On April 1, WTMJ- TV reported that several CBD stores such as Canni Hemp, in Milwaukee, and Beyond Full Spectrum, in Whitefish Bay, had posted messages on their doors, stating they were now in compliance with the state’s “Safer at Home” order by offering pickup and deliveries only. Many CBD retailers had thought they were in compliance with the City of Milwaukee’s order, which lists CBD retailers among essential businesses under Healthcare Operators:
8. “For purposes of this Order, individuals may leave their residence to work for or obtain services at any Healthcare Operations. Healthcare Operations includes, but is not limited to: hospitals; medical facilities; clinics; dental offices; pharmacies; pharmaceutical, pharmacy, medical device and equipment, and biotechnology companies (including operations, research and development, manufacture, and supply chain); eye care centers, including those that sell glasses and contact lenses; home health agencies; mental health and substance abuse providers; other healthcare facilities and suppliers and providers of any related and/or any ancillary healthcare services; entities that transport and dispose of medical materials and remains; personal care agencies; hospices; allied health providers; acupuncturists; massage therapists; chiropractors; adult family homes; blood drives and blood banks, and CBD retailers.”
However, a “Safer at Home” FAQs issued by Gov. Tony Evers, updated March 31, 2020, clarified CBD shops as “nonessential,” along with craft stores, furniture stores, pool cleaning services, salons and spas, shoe stores, and vape, smoke and cigar shops. The order also states that if “a local order conflicts with the statewide order, you must follow the statewide order.”
Damien Johnson, co-owner of The Hemp Professors, on Milwaukee’s Northwest side, just happened to be listening to WTMJ on Wednesday, March 31, when he heard about the update. “They ran a news announcement that all CBD and vape shops were deemed nonessential under the governor’s order,” he says.
One of Johnson’s business partners then reached out to local law enforcement in Milwaukee and Wauwatosa for guidance and found that police officers they spoke with hadn’t received any specific orders as far as CBD was concerned. The Hemp Professors team put a plan into place to work within state law while still serving their customers through online sales and delivery/curbside pickup. They confirmed the following day that CBD retailers were listed as nonessential per the state.
Johnson says Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has a hotline to request that a business be deemed essential. WEDC also has an Essential Business Designation Inquiry on its website.
While the opposing local and state orders are confusing business owners, Johnson worries that his customers will ultimately be the ones that suffer, especially during high anxiety and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. “We have customers that really count on and depend on CBD to treat health issues,” he says.
Stephanie Lembke, owner of Canna Bloom Farmacy, in Hartford, says that on Wednesday, March 31, Hartford police officers entered her store and told her she had to close. “They had gotten notified 30 minutes prior that I was no longer essential,” she says. “I stayed open for about an hour to help some customers, and then I shut down.”
She’s working on updating her website for online orders. She’s also taking phone orders for shipping and delivery of CBD and vape products.
Other CBD and vape stores throughout the state, such as The CBD Store, in Tomahawk, and Smoker’s World, in Janesville, had been notified to close as “nonessential.”