WORCESTER – From conducting virtual inspections to waiving certain fees, the Cannabis Control Commission is investigating how to best help adult-use marijuana businesses that have been shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have and will continue to explore ways to help,” CCC Chairman Steven Hoffman said during the commission’s Friday morning meeting held via telecconference.
Governor Charlie Baker’s Essential Businesses Order shut down the adult-use marijuana businesses in the state on March 24. Initially set to expire April 7, the order has been extended until May 4, leaving many recreational marijuana business owners and workers worried for their future in the nascent industry. Medical marijuana is still considered an essential business and, according to regulators, there has been a surge in applications for medical marijuana cards.
To compound matters, because marijuana is illegal under federal law, marijuana businesses will not be eligible for relief from the federal CARES Act.
As a result, commissioners and CCC staff put forward a number of ideas for how to help the adult-use industry.
The ideas ranged in complexity from simple administrative adjustments to topics that will require significant study.
“The list is not complete,” said Shawn Collins, executive director of the CCC. “Some are real low-hanging fruit on the administrative end, and others are more complex,”
For instance, the commission discussed exploring whether to waive certain fees and extend the dates for licenses – both for businesses to operate and for workers to be registered. Commissioner Jen Flanagan said she wanted to investigate whether positive impact plans could be amended to reflect the newfound landscape.
The commission also discussed whether to expedite other pending licenses that an existing business may have before the commission, for instance if an adult-use business had a pending license for a cultivation facility or another dispensary.
“Given that we don’t have authority to reopen them, give them loans, or give them grants…if we can take them small steps by prioritizing them…I support it,” Title said.
On the more complex end, commissioners discussed the possibility of remote inspections of facilities and vehicles.
“We need to make sure we are conducting a thorough inspection, and how can we conduct a thorough inspection if we can’t be in there?” Collins asked, suggesting that commissioners should look to other states for guidance.
Commissioners also sought to investigate and issue further clarifications on issues about planting – both indoors and outdoors – for cultivation facilities, about industry workers’ eligibility for state unemployment benefits, and about the needs of the supply chain. The CCC will report back on these ideas at a future meeting.
“We understand the gravity of the situation, and hopefully it’s very clear that it’s not business as usual,” Title said. “We’ve heard you…we understand the devastating nature of this for your business…and how uniquely unfair this feels for you.”