State officials confirmed that Massachusetts recreational cannabis dispensaries are going to reopen today, May 25th, 2020, after the 2 months of mandatory closure imposed in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the beginning of the emergency, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker categorized recreational cannabis dispensaries as nonessential services. Yet, he permitted medical cannabis retail outlets to remain open, strongly encouraging curbside delivery as the preferred method of contact between patient and employees.
Such provision prompted strong discontent within the industry, especially considering the fact that, with the heavy regulation that marijuana stores have to implement to operate, these businesses would have been capable of deploying social distancing measures quicker and more easily than others. The halls of cities and towns that host cannabis-related facilities complained as well, pointing out how these companies, and the high taxes they pay, have become fundamental pillar of local economies. On a state-level, Massachusetts cannabis companies generated a tax revenue of over $120mln during the last year alone.
As for first phase of the state’s reopening strategy, dispensaries are only going to serve walk-up customers or do curbside delivery. The possibility of allowing a certain number of customers inside the premises will be considered in the future, once the state will be able to put more relaxed coronavirus-related safety provisions into place. The state Cannabis Control Commission deliberated that cultivation, processing, and testing facilities are able to go back to operations this week. However, managers will first have to present a safety measure plan, illustrating their best practices meant to prevent contagion.
Massachusetts is the only state in the Northeast to have legalized recreational cannabis use and sale. Therefore, Baker’s initial argument was that reopening recreational cannabis dispensaries during the initial outbreak represented a public health danger, because of the risk of attracting numerous visitors from nearing states. And the idea of restricting sale only to state residents would have, apparently, brought up legal issues. Governor Baker declared himself to be still concerned about out-of-state recreational customers, but he believes that curbside pickup will add up to the safety, and not encourage shoppers from other states to come to Massachusetts for their needs.
The re-opening strategy will consist of four phases, each one lasting a minimum of three weeks, and thoroughly assessed by state officials. As of now, the best practices implemented during the worst moments of the pandemic are still in place. These include all the things we got used to since March, such as face-masks, social distancing, increased hygiene routines and frequent disinfection of all premises and surfaces for the safety of both the public and the staff. Before reopening, all businesses will have to complete a mandatory COVID-19 Control Plan, which must be always available at the business during any inspection, but does not require state approval.
Marijuana industry groups greeted Baker’s announcement with warm-hearted joy and high hopes, eager to bring back into operations the 8,000+ workers they employed state-wide.
Source: Boston News