The Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association sent a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday asking him to reverse his decision making recreational marijuana sales off-limits during the coronavirus crisis. The Brockton-based In Good Health, however, said it supports Baker’s order, despite losing 75 percent of its sales revenue.
BROCKTON – The Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association is calling on Gov. Baker to reverse course on his classification of recreational marijuana as “nonessential,” arguing that the effect of the policy temporarily closing pot shops amid the coronavirus crisis could “cripple” an industry that is just taking root in the state.
However, the only operating marijuana business in Brockton said it disagrees with the association’s stance.
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David O’Brien, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association, penned a letter to Baker on Friday that pointed out that the state’s 42 marijuana retailers – 14 of which don’t offer medical marijuana sales – will be ineligible for coronavirus relief under the $2 trillion federal stimulus package signed by President Trump, and they will also be unable to take advantage of programs offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Baker’s order did not stop the sale of medical marijuana, just adult use recreational marijuana.
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O’Brien said nearly all of the other 33 states with legal medical or recreational markets have deemed marijuana as an essential service that should be allowed to continue operating amid the coronavirus crisis. O’Brien said Baker’s decision could cause some licensed recreational marijuana stores in Massachusetts to close permanently due to a lack of working capital and cash flow, and will result in “severe” job losses.
“Every day we’re closed is a day closer to being out of business,” said O’Brien, in a phone call on Thursday. “If there’s no relief coming from the federal government, like there is for every single other business, you’re putting the cannabis industry behind the 8-ball and asking it to hang on for dear life.”
The Brockton-based In Good Health, which derives 75 percent of its revenue from recreational sales, and continues to sell medical marijuana during this time, said it disagrees with the Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association. In Good Health, with about 100 employees, said it had to temporarily lay off some retail employees as a result of Baker’s order to cease recreational marijuana sales.
“This is an unprecedented health crisis,” said David Noble, president of In Good Health, located on West Chestnut Street. “We support our state’s leaders in doing what they need to do to resolve the health crisis and then restore our economy. We were allowed to continue to serve our medical patients, and that is what we will do until there is a new direction from the state.”
At the same time, Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association is getting support in its call to the governor to reverse course on recreational marijuana from state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, D-Jamaica Plain, and others. According to a letter first reported by WGBH, co-signed Chang-Diaz, state Sen. Nick Collins, D-South Boston, and 10 state representatives, adult use marijuana stores should be treated like other businesses deemed “essential services” by Baker, such as liquor stores, especially since the state’s marijuana law states that the green-leafy substance should be treated similarly to alcoholic beverages.
“Regulations were put in place to treat this newly legalized product similar to alcoholic beverages,” the lawmakers wrote. “We have a responsibility to ensure that this equity is upheld during these unprecedented times.”
A group called Veteran Cannabis Project is joining the call for Baker to reverse course on recreational marijuana sales, launching a website last week telling supporters to email Baker and other state lawmakers to allow recreational marijuana sales to continue during the coronavirus crisis. The group said the requirement to get medical marijuana cards to buy medical marijuana “is unnecessarily prohibitive for vets who depend on cannabis to help cope with physical and psychological injuries sustained on the battlefield.”
Baker said he wanted to shut down recreational marijuana sales because it generates “a ton of traffic” from neighboring states, and draws large crowds, which could exacerbate the spread of the coronavirus.
On the other hand, O’Brien said that the recreational marijuana industry in Massachusetts could set up a system of curbside pickup services and delivery services to eliminate the problem of long lines and crowds. Curbside pickup was approved by the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission on Friday for medical marijuana card holders and their caregivers.
“Everyone is getting creative in every business right now,” O’Brien said. “Cannabis is no exception.”