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Denver Nearly Lost Its Shit After the City Tried to Close Pot and Liquor Stores

But rest assured, both liquor stores and dispensaries will now remain open as “essential services” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s one reason why over a dozen states have deemed weed as “essential” during the COVID-19 pandemic: It helps people chill the fuck out during times of panic. And Denver, the city that sold America’s first bottle of legal recreational marijuana, just learned this the hard way.

On Monday afternoon, Denverites packed entire city blocks, lining up in front of recreational weed shops and liquor stores to panic-buy and presumably hoard, well, weed and liquor.

That’s because at 2pm that day, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced that his office would officially enforce a citywide stay-at-home order starting at 5pm Tuesday, the following day, to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The stay-at-home order ends on April 10th.

Only businesses and services deemed “essential” could stay open until the city lifted the stay-at-home order. Furthermore, essential businesses would still have to observe social distancing practices, which means keeping everyone at least six feet apart.  

But the stay-at-home order itself didn’t trigger the freak-out. Monday’s mad rush for reefer and rum kicked off shortly after Mayor Hancock clarified that retail weed shops and liquor stores weren’t included on the open-for-business list.

“We do not have them listed as essential,” Hancock said of liquor stores, specifically, during the Monday press conference. “As much as I might think it’s essential for me, it’s not essential for everyone.” He then advised everyone to stock up on alcohol before the liquor stores would close through April 10th. 

Ironically, the mayor of the Mile High City did not anticipate how much his citizens love booze and weed. Or maybe he didn’t foresee how freaked out everyone would feel regarding the coronavirus crisis. Or maybe it was both.

Within 15 minutes after Hancock’s press conference, Denver residents flocked to liquor stores and adult-use cannabis retail shops in droves. They formed long, packed lines outside of smaller pot shops and liquor stores, and, as the Denver Post put it, were “violating social distancing requirements while they were at it.” 

“It’s created a safety issue in the short term,” Josh Robinson, the owner of Argonaut Wine & Liquor, told the Denver Post. His store is one of downtown Denver’s largest — and busiest — liquor outlets. During the rush, his staff had to double as security to ensure that only one customer entered once a previous customer left.

“The mayor said not to panic buy, but that is exactly what he encouraged people to do by shutting us down,” he continued.

By Monday evening, Hancock reversed portions of Denver’s stay-at-home order, namely the part about closing liquor stores and pot shops. Now, so long as a liquor vendor or recreational weed business can keep its staff and customers six feet away from each other (e.g. with curbside services or deliveries), they can remain open during the stay-at-home order.

While Hancock may have triggered a potential disaster then saved the day at the last minute, the April 10th expiration date won’t come soon enough. Last week, the organizers of Denver’s world-famous 420 festival announced that they are canceling the event due to coronavirus. 

Stay weeded, and keep a cool head out there, everyone. 

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