Four recreational cannabis businesses have filed a lawsuit against Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker for ordering marijuana stores to close during the coronavirus crisis.
The Baker administration deemed adult-use cannabis retailers to be non-essential during the lockdown and ordered them to shut the doors. Medical marijuana businesses were allowed to continue trading.
Cannabis store owners have now decided to sue him over the executive order. “By classifying adult-use marijuana establishments as non-essential, while classifying similar regulated businesses – such as liquor stores and medical marijuana dispensaries – as essential, the executive orders violate the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs and exceed the governor’s executive authority,” the complaint argues.
Recreational marijuana retailers were assigned essential status in other states that have legalized adult-use cannabis, including Colorado, Washington and Nevada. California has also deemed them essential, although retailers face challenges in certain counties.
Baker justified his decision by arguing that Massachusetts’ marijuana stores receive a number of out-of-state visitors, as many neighboring states have not legalized adult-use cannabis. He claims they could travel to the stores and exacerbate the coronavirus spread.
A number of prominent lawmakers, including Rep. Katherine Clark, have piled pressure on Baker to reverse his decision. Thus far he has refused to budge. He called reopening the stores “a non-starter” and reiterated his position at a press conference yesterday.
The executive order requiring the marijuana stores to close runs until May 4, but it could be extended.
The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission issued an order on Tuesday stating recreational cannabis stores can sell their inventory to medical marijuana dispensary owners during the crisis.
The Baker administration cited a 158% increase in patient applications for the state’s medical marijuana program since the essential services order was first issued on March 23. It anticipates a significant increase in patient demand, and it said adult-use businesses could support the medical marijuana supply chain during this time.
Yet that is not enough of a concession for the businesses that sued Baker. Attorneys representing the businesses said his executive order breaches both the state and federal constitutions.
An Iraq War veteran has joined the businesses in filing the lawsuit. Vets fear losing their veteran status if they apply for a medical marijuana card, as cannabis is illegal at a federal level, so they often rely on recreational marijuana purchases to treat conditions like anxiety and PTSD.
The complainants have asked for an emergency injunction to reopen the shops and called for a hearing “by any means necessary”.
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