Massachusetts cannabis regulators said on Thursday that they believe recreational marijuana retailers closed by an emergency order issued in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic can safely reopen when Gov. Charlie Baker rescinds the declaration. Baker issued the order in March, directing adult-use cannabis shops to close along with other nonessential businesses to help contain the spread of the virus. Medical marijuana dispensaries retailers were deemed essential services and permitted to remain open.
After a meeting of the agency on Thursday, Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) chairman Steve Hoffman told reporters during a virtual press conference that marijuana retailers can protect customers and workers by employing strategies adopted by essential businesses, such as curbside pickup and scheduling shopping times for customers by appointment only. Noting that Massachusetts is the only state with legal adult-use cannabis to close recreational shops, Hoffman said that his staff is ready to monitor the stores for compliance with safety measures such as social distancing protocols once they are allowed to reopen.
“It is unfair that Massachusetts adult-use operators are the only ones that are shut down across the country and are not eligible for any kind of federal assistance,” he said. “I have no concerns whatsoever that we can operate this business safely. I think we’ve demonstrated that we can do so on the medical side of the business… [and] I think there’s absolutely no reason we can’t do exactly the same thing on the adult-use side.”
Hoffman also said that he would like to meet with an advisory panel created by Baker to implement the reopening of the Massachusetts economy so that he can “convince them that we are totally confident.” But he added that the commission has not been invited to give input to the committee and acknowledged that “it is Governor Baker’s decision, not mine.”
Cannabis Industry Calls For Adult-Use Shops To Be Reopened
Jim Borghesani, a cannabis consultant and the former spokesman for the 2016 campaign that legalized recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, said that the governor’s office is not relaxing restrictions fairly, noting that golf courses have been allowed to reopen.
“It is difficult to fathom Governor Baker’s decision to join other states in opening golf courses while he continues to be the only governor in the nation to keep adult-use cannabis stores shuttered,” Borghesani told the Boston Globe.
Hoffman and CCC commissioner Shaleen Title both said that they support legislation proposed earlier this week by state Senator Diana DiZoglio that would provide cash payments to companies ineligible for federal relief, including cannabis businesses. But the help may not be enough for retailers struggling to survive in a newly legal market.
“We’re doing everything we can to provide economic relief,” Title said. “But the most straightforward form of economic relief is for these businesses to just be able to open again.”
David O’Brien, the president of the Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association, said that Baker should follow the advice of the commissioners.
“The experts have spoken, and they are confident that they can safely reopen the adult-use market,” he said. “Governor Baker needs to start trusting the people he appointed to do their job.”