Recreational marijuana business owners in Massachusetts have protested Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision to order them to shut their doors during the coronavirus lockdown.
Baker issued a two-week stay-at-home notice yesterday in a bid to contain the coronavirus outbreak. There are 777 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts and the virus has killed nine people.
The governor’s emergency order requires all businesses and organizations that do not provide “COVID-19 Essential Services” to close at noon today. They must stay shut until at least April 7.
The list of essential services includes grocery stores, gas stations, and other key businesses. It also includes medical marijuana dispensaries and liquor stores.
However, recreational cannabis stores were left off the list. It led to long lines outside cannabis stores like In Good Health in Brockton. Shoppers said the store was more packed than ever before, although social distancing was clearly on display.
Now recreational cannabis storeowners are protesting Baker’s decision. It followed a cease-and-desist order from the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, which directed the state’s 42 adult-use dispensaries.
There are 14 stores solely dedicated to recreational cannabis in the state. Twenty-eight of the 61 medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts sell recreational weed too.
The 14 adult-use only stores will have to shut their doors for two weeks, while the medical dispensaries must turn away all recreational shoppers.
Baker said he took the decision due to the number of cannabis tourists that visit the state’s stores. “Because Massachusetts is one of the few states in a big geographic area that has available recreational marijuana and a ton of traffic associated with that is coming from other states, we felt that in particular would need to be closed and would not be considered as essential as part of this order,” he said.
The state’s recreational consumers spent $400 million last year. It is the first state to declare adult-use cannabis retailing to be a non-essential service. A few stores had to shut down in California last week, but they quickly reopened following clarity from the local Department of Health.
In the Netherlands, the famous cannabis cafes also shut up shop as part of a government imposed lockdown, but they then reopened after authorities realized it would lead to a spike in street drug dealing.
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