Sales of adult-use cannabis in Massachusetts, legal since 2015, took a serious hit in early April when Gov. Charlie Baker deemed that only medical marijuana dispensaries were essential and could remain open during the pandemic.
But that all changed on May 25th when all of the state’s cannabis shops finally opened after a much-appreciated announcement by Gov. Baker, in which he stipulated that shops would be limited to curbside pickup only.
In keeping with social distancing, customers must have their identification papers ready and facemasks on while showing their online confirmation code as they wait in long lines, six feet apart.
“Go through three different little checks, they’re all hand sanitizing every step of the way. It’s really good,” a customer told NBC Boston when the shops finally opened on Memorial Day, as part of Gov. Baker’s four-phased reopening plan for the entire state.
No in-store sales will be allowed until Phase 2, which means dispensaries and shops will have to restrict customers in order to keep up with demand.
Phase 2 is expected around June 8 if all goes well, though the governor has repeatedly said business re-openings will depend on key health metrics the state is using to monitor the coronavirus response.
Will Massachusetts Dispensaries Stay Open?
Though the re-opening is welcome across the state, many worry that officials could close the shops down again if there is a return of the coronavirus. Massachusetts was the only state that deemed legal adult-use weed shops were “nonessential” during the pandemic.
Another lengthy closure would be devastating for the industry.
“It’s a real concern,” Amanda Rositano, president of New England Treatment Access (NETA), told the Associated Press. “We took an enormous hit these last two months. Our stores saw an 85% to 90% reduction in sales. We really had to scrape by.”
Though some Massachusetts lawmakers fought to establish a state-level financial relief program for the cannabis industry, most government programs in Massachusetts and nationwide continue to shut the industry out.
Up to now, the legal cannabis industry has consistently been excluded from receiving all federal-level small business funding earmarked for those affected by the coronavirus.
And it has not been easy for cannabis consumers and the shops that serve them.
“The only way to survive is to be open,” said Jeff Herold, CEO of Garden Remedies. “This is our opportunity to be open and to use our customers and our patients. [They] are really our [PPP]. That’s our way to survive, is people coming through our door.”
PPP is the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, which is meant to provide loans to small businesses.