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Gov. Gavin Newsom, seen giving a coronavirus briefing on March 30, has included marijuana shops on the list of essential businesses allowed to stay open. <span class="copyright">(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)</span>
Gov. Gavin Newsom, seen giving a coronavirus briefing on March 30, has included marijuana shops on the list of essential businesses allowed to stay open. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

To the editor: As an emergency physician, I believe treating marijuana shops as essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic is shameful.

Has everyone forgotten about the vaping-related pneumonias that were killing young people before COVID-19 swept the world? The main association between fatalities and the acute respiratory failure we were seeing was the use of vaping products containing marijuana.

Curiously, the ground-glass appearance on radiologic studies now associated with COVID-19 was first seen in the vaping-related pneumonias. Additionally the “new and improved” legal marijuana seems to have a very different effect on people than the marijuana of the 1980 and ’90s.

At a time like this when healthcare providers are going to be swamped with victims of COVID-19, we want to be minimizing people’s risk for respiratory illness and avoiding the need for psychiatric beds for violent, impaired individuals.

Not only is cannabis not essential, it’s downright dangerous.

Mary Kaye Ashkenaze, MD, Laguna Niguel

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To the editor: Critics say that it doesn’t make sense to allow people to congregate at cannabis stores.

What these critics do not either know or understand is that, since the pandemic, it’s different at these dispensaries. You have to order what you want online, either to have it picked up at a store or delivered to your home.

If one elects to pick up at the location, only a few customers at a time can be allowed on the premises, just like at a market. Store employees have masks on, and that is only two employees — the person at the desk and the security guard.

Just as with supermarkets, once the customers inside are finished, a few more are allowed inside.

Neil Snow, Manhattan Beach

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