Run on marijuana dispensaries as Bay Area shelters-in-place

As people hunker down and stock-up on essentials, many are also stocking up on marijuana. 

Shelter-in-place orders across eight counties are making it more difficult, even impossible, to buy cannabis products. 

So lines have been long in anticipation of the orders taking effect. 

"It's one thing I don't want to be without because if I get a migraine, I'm going down, " said Vicky Schneider of Petaluma, waiting to buy CBD for pain relief at Mercy Wellness of Cotati.

"I'm actually surprised but not surprised about this whole line," she added. 

On Wednesday, Sonoma County becomes the latest jurisdiction to order non-essential businesses closed.

"There are a lot of people worrying about not being able to leave their house or whether they're going to run out of product," said Brandon Levine, owner of Mercy Wellness. 

Whether cannabis companies are "essential services" or must close is a county by county decision. 

Some, like San Francisco, ordered them shut down initially, then relented under pressure and agreed to allow medical sales. 

All businesses that remain open are supposed to practice social distancing, keeping customers six feet apart to prevent disease spread. 

Mercy Wellness has been separating people in line, and in the waiting room, with many reminders prominently posted. 

As Sonoma County's largest dispensary, it is scrambling to fill orders- in person, online, and delivery. 

Late word Tuesday from from the Public Health Department informed them they can remain open during shelter in place, but must move all sales outside. 

Wednesday, the operation will resemble a drive-through in the parking lot. 

"We'll have traffic control and we'll have them come through, and pass by a few tents we normally use for festivals," said Levine. 

The process will be slower, not being able to use their pneumatic tube overhead that delivers inventory to each cashier.

Customers will have to pre-order for pick-up and they will be required to have a medical recommendation, as it was before "adult use" became legal. But it's a way for patients to get their remedies. 

"There's people who can't sleep, who have no appetite, they can't eat. And anxiety is the biggest thing right now, it's through the roof," said Levine. 

Another shopper in line has come two days in a row to stock up on pain relief.

"It's like toilet paper right, everyone just wants to make sure," said Teri Schouten of Rohnert Park. 

"I've had four back surgeries, I used to take opiates and I've also been a nurse for 30 years and this is definitely my medication." 

Because cannabis straddles both recreational and medical use, counties were unsure how to classify it during the emergency.

"This is new for everyone and it's a lot to deal with," said Levine. "You're locking yourself up in the house for two weeks and people are going to go a bit crazy stuck in the same space." 

Still, many cannabis users said they support the stay-put order if it helps stem coronavirus. 

"I'm not panicking about it, but I think it's a good idea to stop the spread, it's just hard on the economy and on the people," said Schneider.