Cannabis dispensaries in Massachusetts will no longer be permitted to offer curbside pickup of recreational marijuana purchases to their customers after state regulators allowed an emergency rule permitting the practice to expire.
At a meeting of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission on September 17, regulators voted to extend some emergency regulations put in place at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, including a rule that allows medical marijuana patients to receive recommendations from their physician via a telemedicine appointment. The commission also voted to continue curbside cannabis purchase pickups for medical marijuana patients but declined to extend a similar authorization for adult-use cannabis customers.
Decision Ends Pandemic-Era Rule
Cannabis dispensaries in Massachusetts were barred from making sales of recreational marijuana for two months under an executive order issued in March 2020 by Governor Charlie Baker that directed nonessential businesses to close to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Medical marijuana dispensaries were deemed essential businesses, however, and allowed to remain open with special safety precautions including social distancing and curbside pickup put in place. Shops supplying both medical marijuana and recreational cannabis were directed to serve registered patients only. Sales of recreational marijuana resumed the following May with similar restrictions in place, including social distancing and curbside pickup for most transactions.
“The Cannabis Control Commission, with the cooperation of licensees, municipalities, and most importantly, registered qualifying patients, has demonstrated that we are effectively able to preserve public health and safety through curbside operations and other emergency protocols,” CCC executive director Shawn Collins said at the time. “I am confident that our adult-use licensees and their customers will adapt just the same when they reopen under similar protocols next week.”
Leave the Kids at Home
Only a week after curbside pickup of adult-use cannabis began, however, the commission clarified that customers picking up recreational marijuana orders could not have children with them in the car. At a June 2020 CCC meeting, commissioner Britte McBride said that state law forbids people younger than 21 from being on the premises of cannabis retailers and argued that vehicles used for pickup transactions are included in the restriction.
“It states really explicitly in the statute what our obligation is,” McBride said. “For me, that’s the beginning and the end.”
Commissioner Jen Flanagan also opposed allowing children in vehicles making pickups at cannabis dispensaries and said that recreational marijuana is not an essential service.
“While I understand that parents may be having difficulty accessing this product, given the circumstances that we’re currently in… I don’t believe that anyone under 21 should be in the car,” Flanagan said. “I’m sorry, this is not something that is absolutely necessary. This is not food… we’re talking about a choice a parent is making.”
Emergency Rules Expired this Month
The emergency regulations for cannabis dispensaries were based on a state of emergency declared by Baker’s 2020 executive order. When the governor rescinded the state of emergency declaration in May of this year, the CCC voted to extend the authorizations for curbside pickups and telemedicine appointments until September 1, a deadline that passed without action from the commission until the meeting on September 17.
Members of the commission noted that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues with the Delta variant raging across the country, it may still be unsafe for some medical marijuana patients to pick up their purchases in person.
“Patients may not be comfortable just yet entering a dispensary,” Collins said at this month’s meeting.
Although he acknowledged that adult-use cannabis customers may also still be wary about making in-store purchases, Collins noted that lawmakers passed legislation authorizing home delivery of recreational marijuana late last year.
In June, the CCC began accepting applications for home delivery of recreational marijuana under a program that prioritizes social equity applicants who want to enter the regulated cannabis industry. While delivery is not yet available in all areas of Massachusetts, Collins said that new delivery operators are being approved every month.
Hello! Dispensaries that sell medical marijuana, on the other hand, were recognized as necessary enterprises and permitted to continue operating with certain safety safeguards in place, such as social distance and curbside pickup. Medical marijuana dispensaries were instructed to serve only registered patients, but recreational cannabis dispensaries were allowed to service both groups. Retail marijuana sales resumed in May of the following year, still subject to social distancing and curbside collection requirements.