Congresswoman Katherine Clark is the latest high-profile politician to call upon Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to reopen recreational cannabis dispensaries.
Massachusetts is the only state that has ordered adult-use marijuana stores to cease trading during the coronavirus lockdown. Clark, a Democrat representing the Massachusetts 5th congressional district, said this policy will penalize veterans.
“The state must find a way to serve our vets,” said Clark. “No one should be left behind in this national emergency.”
The Department for Veteran Affairs cannot prescribe marijuana or help veterans in obtaining it, as cannabis remains illegal in all forms at a federal level. Clark believes the department should have the power to recommend marijuana, and she said that Massachusetts must help vets in the meantime.
She claims that veterans “who rely on these stores are left without care”.
There are 14 recreational cannabis stores in Massachusetts, and all of them have been forced to close during the lockdown. The state contains a further 33 medical marijuana dispensaries, and 28 stores selling both recreational and medical marijuana.
The medical marijuana dispensaries have been allowed to remain open, and the hybrid stores can sell medical marijuana, but not recreational marijuana.
If vets have medical conditions, they can sign up to the medical marijuana program and obtain cannabis from dispensaries during the lockdown.
However, the Veteran Cannabis Project said that many vets are fearful of signing up for medical marijuana programs. They worry they will jeopardize their veteran status and be denied federal benefits, as marijuana remains illegal at a federal level.
The VCP therefore believes closing recreational marijuana stores during this critical time represents an injustice. The group took out a full-page ad in the Boston Globe on Wednesday to urge him to reconsider.
However, Baker has thus far refused to budge. He said reopening cannabis stores is a “non-starter” during his press conference this week.
Baker believes that shutting the stores can reduce the risk of the coronavirus spreading. It is one of the few states in the region to legalize recreational marijuana, so stores receive lots of visitors from neighboring states, and Baker fears this would put Massachusetts at risk as it battles to contain the virus.
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