Local Recreational Cannabis Dispensaries Hit Hard By COVID-19 Will Reopen… Someday
New England’s cannabis industry is taking a huge hit since Coronavirus began spreading across the United States. Cannabis users and businesses are struggling to persuade state and federal governments that adult-use cannabis should be available and companies should be assisted similar to other industries.
As COVID-19 became a national pandemic, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker made an order that prohibited recreational marijuana companies from operating due to being nonessential. The order halted the operations of 43 recreational marijuana shops until May 18th at the earliest. A group of these affected companies and a military veteran came together to file a lawsuit to expand the continuation of medical marijuana to recreational shops as well.
Before the shutdown, statewide adult-use cannabis sales had reached $157 million in 2020. Now, a number of small businesses are financially struggling while some will be forced out of business completely. With these recent restrictions, inventory cannot be sold in-store or to medical supply chains. Those involved with these medical supply chains are losing up to 85% of their revenue.
Recreational Massachusetts Cannabis Dispensaries Abandoned
To aid small businesses during this time, Congress passed the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act). However, “Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, which means these bailouts and small business loans are not available to these businesses,” says Adam Fine, a representative for the aforementioned lawsuit. “The businesses were already adapting, and the market was taken out from under them.”
For cannabis users, the order allows those who have a medical marijuana card to continue as usual and with priority. However, in states where it is legal, there are people who require marijuana as a form of medication but aren’t officially registered. From March through April, the Cannabis Control Commission’s total number of medical marijuana patients increased by more than 14% which is roughly 8,700. Lawsuits argued that many people use recreational marijuana medicinally because they fear losing federal benefits or have been disqualified.
New England continues to argue over the significance and needs of the cannabis industry. In order to continue the healthy development of this industry, governments must adjust their restrictions and give both the businesses and consumers the products they need. On Saturday, Massachusetts cannabis industry representatives met with Baker to speak on their COVID-19 safety plans and best practices to reopen. Among those present at the meeting from the cannabis community included the Commonwealth Dispensary Association, Kobie Evans, a co-founder of Pure Oasis, Joseph Lusardi, the CEO of Curaleaf, the president of NETA, Amanda Rositano, and others.
4-Phase Plan to Reopen Massachusetts Businesses Including Cannabis Recreational Dispensaries
Although a reopening date for recreational dispensaries hasn’t been set in stone, Baker has made it clear that they are part of his 4-phase plan. “The goal is to come up with plans to ensure that we reopen as soon as possible across the many different industries that make up the Massachusetts economy,” Baker said.
The four phases:
- Phase 1 will be “Start” – limited industries resume operations with severe restrictions
- Phase 2 will be “Cautious” – additional industries resume operations with restrictions and capacity limits
- Phase 3 will be “Vigilant” – additional industries resume operations with guidance
- Phase 4 will be the “New Normal” – development of vaccine and/or therapy enables resumption of new normal
Sources: “Recreational marijuana companies, in lawsuit against Gov. Charlie Baker over essential business ban, denied preliminary injunction,” “Adult-Use Cannabis Dispensary Shutdown in Massachusetts ‘Catastrophic’ for Industry,” “Cannabis Companies Struggling During COVID-19 Are Ineligible for Federal Relief,” “Baker announces 4-phase approach to reopening economy,” “Mass. cannabis executives look forward to safely reopening’ after meeting with governor’s advisory board”.