Massachusetts Recreational Cannabis Stores Anticipate Reopening
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Update: On Monday, May 18, Massachusetts state officials announced that adult-use marijuana retail stores may once again serve customers from May 25, although sales will be limited to curbside pickup and online or telephone orders.
Cannabis industry representatives in Massachusetts are looking forward to “safely reopening” their stores, reports MassLive, after industry executives made their pitch to a state reopening advisory board on Saturday.
Recreational cannabis stores have been closed in Massachusetts since March 24 after being ruled to be “non-essential” businesses under Governor Charlie Baker’s coronavirus emergency order.
Cannabis industry says it will work closely with the state to reopen safely
Representatives from the Commonwealth Dispensary Association (CDA), which represents 80 percent of the state's medical and adult-use industry, met with the 17-member reopening advisory board on Saturday to present their Covid-19 safety plan. The plan reflects national best practices and input from all the association’s 38 members, the group says.
The CDA and the advisory board were also joined by a number of other industry representatives in the meeting, including: Joseph Lusardi, the CEO of Curaleaf, Amanda Rositano, the president of NETA, Jay Youmans, a principal at Smith, Costello & Crawford, and Kobie Evans, a co-founder of Pure Oasis in Boston.
“We are greatly appreciative to the lieutenant governor [Karyn Polito], secretary [of housing and economic development, Mike Kennealy], and the advisory board for their time and service,” said David Torrisi, the president of the CDA, in a statement on Saturday afternoon. “We look forward to safely reopening the Massachusetts economy in close collaboration with the administration.”
Top regulators support the re-opening of adult-use dispensaries
In a virtual press conference last Thursday, top cannabis regulators in the state expressed support for allowing recreational cannabis stores to reopen.
Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission’s (CCC) chairman, Steve Hoffman, said he believes the state’s recreational dispensaries could easily adopt the same social distancing measures being employed by medical cannabis dispensaries in the state, which have been allowed to remain open under the stay-at-home order. In addition, Hoffman said that it was “unfair” for Baker to shutter recreational businesses during the pandemic, as the recreational industry doesn’t qualify for any federal assistance programs.
Last week, State Senator Diana DiZoglio put forward a bill that would establish a state-level relief program that would extend to the cannabis industry and other similar industries currently excluded from receiving federal aid.
“I have no concerns whatsoever that we can operate this business safely,” said Hoffman, during the press conference. “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.”
During the press conference, Commissioner Shaleen Title commented that the “most straightforward form of economic relief is for these businesses to just be able to open again.”
Earlier last month a group of dispensaries did attempt to sue Governor Baker over his decision to close recreational cannabis stores, but ultimately a judge would rule in Baker’s favor. State law only requires the governor to have some “rational basis” behind the decision to close businesses, the judge explained, and that the plaintiffs would have “little chance” of demonstrating otherwise.
Cannabis delivery made a priority during pandemic
Since recreational stores closed in Massachusetts, the number of medical cannabis patients in the state jumped by more than 8,700 as those who had been relying on the recreational market to self-manage various health issues rushed to get involved in the state medical cannabis program.
This sparked concerns that the medical cannabis supply chain may not be able to sustain demand, and the CCC responded by allowing closed recreational businesses to support the medical market through wholesale transfers.
Since the pandemic began, the CCC has also made allowances for medical dispensaries to allow for curbside pickup for patients. Delivery services for medical cannabis existed in Massachusetts before the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, state officials are moving closer towards allowing delivery for recreational businesses once their operations are allowed to resume.
The CCC announced last Thursday that license applications for third-party delivery services and for cannabis “microbusinesses” looking to deliver their own products will be available from May 28. For the first two years of the program, only participants in the CCC’s two equity programs will be eligible to apply.
Officials say that a lack of delivery services had been one of the major disadvantages for the legal market in Massachusetts, as illicit market dealers continued to offer the convenience of home delivery. Home delivery may also offer a safer, socially distanced option for when adult-use sales are allowed to resume.