Lotto tickets are OK, but not seeds? Residents baffled after Michigan bans purchases of ‘non-essential’ items
Michigan residents and local businesses are furious over a new rule, purportedly aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus, which bars them from buying and selling seeds – now deemed a “non-essential” item.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced in a public address that “essential” businesses such as grocery stores will be restricted in what they are allowed to offer to their customers. The policy, the governor argued, is meant to limit unnecessary foot traffic in public spaces exempt from the state-wide shutdown.
“If you’re not buying food, medicine, or other essential items, you should not be going to the store,” she said. Big-box retailers such as Walmart were ordered to shutter entire sections of their stores – such as furniture, carpeting, plant nurseries, paint, and garden centers – beginning on April 10.
The state’s strict lockdown measures mean residents will be stuck at home for the start of spring, but those who were hoping to plant a vegetable garden to help pass the time – or get some fresh air – are fresh out of luck.
Outraged shoppers have posted photographs of roped-off shelves of seeds.
In #Michigan You can't buy seeds or plants or even pots. Growing your own food is ESSENTIAL @GovWhitmer and you should be ashamed that you're doing this to your state. pic.twitter.com/suYBkqozB1— Natalie F Danelishen (@Chesschick01) April 10, 2020
“You cannot purchase ‘non-essential’ items in stores even though you are in the store and it’s on the shelves and there are cashiers,” noted one furious Michigander, calling the governor “insane.”
This is a Meijer in MI. You cannot purchase “non-essential” items in stores even though you are in the store and it’s on the shelves and there are cashiers. @GovWhitmer Gretchen is insane. pic.twitter.com/dD5igBxUMG— Lori Olivia (@simplylorilee) April 11, 2020
The policy quickly caught the attention of local media, which pointed out a number of bizarre inconsistencies. “In-store purchases of Michigan Lottery tickets are still permitted, but buying a can of paint or a bag of seeds is off limits,” observed the Detroit Free Press.
Popular commentators have also been irked by the new rule. Amanda Carpenter, a CNN contributor with more than 140,000 Twitter followers, wrote that her friends in Michigan are “irate” over the fact that they “can’t get farm supplies but booze and lottery tickets are available.”
Where I live seeds are available. I'm speaking up for my Michigan friends who are irate they can't get farm supplies but booze and lottery tickets are available. They have a point.— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) April 10, 2020
Small businesses have also been hit hard by the new provision. Bob Kuszmaul, a wholesale grower for nearly 40 years, told the Detroit News that his business was on the brink of going bust. He is part of a group of business owners and state lawmakers who have called on the governor to ease the new restrictions.
Michigan isn’t alone in its puzzling anti-Covid measures. Vermont, Indiana, Colorado, and Missouri have imposed similar rules barring stores from selling “non-essential” items, leading to similar anger about what is – and isn’t – deemed important for living.
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