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Written by Sheena Beronio

The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission halted all recreational cannabis retail stores for two weeks, via a Summary Cease and Desist Order. This order is in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The 42 recreational cannabis sector, as well as the 14 adult-use-only cannabis retailers, which weren’t licensed for medical marijuana sales, would have to succumb to the 2-week closure. They will leave their recreational customers temporarily, who spent at least $400 million last year, to an all-time dry. The halt in the operation of the said businesses will have to close down until April 7, or longer if the Order is amended to do so.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Monday the Order encompassing all nonessential businesses to close down or let their employees work from home in the meantime.

In a press conference, Baker expressed the need to close down recreational cannabis shops due to the unnecessary influx of out-of-state marijuana customers during the pandemic. Closing down these shops would protect Massachusetts residents from unwanted outsider contact.

“Because Massachusetts is one of the few states in a big geographic area that has available recreational marijuana and a ton of traffic associated with that is coming from other states, we felt that in particular would need to be closed and would not be considered as essential as part of this order,” as per Baker.

The state of Massachusetts is one of the first states in America to designate adult-use shops as “nonessential business.”

On a different note, David Torrisi, the president of the Commonwealth Dispensary Association, argued that “classifying adult-use cannabis retailers as nonessential because they attract customers from out of state overlooks the relief and comfort these products provide to thousands of Massachusetts residents and the efforts undertaken by the operations themselves.”

Torrisi also pointed out the need for adult-use cannabis retailers to cater to those Massachusetts residents, who have no medical marijuana cards but need the plant for medicinal purposes.

In a statement, Torrisi said, “This loss of access would be akin to losing out on over the counter remedies for many. For others, cannabis provides a small measure of relaxation which can help to ease the anxieties we are all facing during this time, much like a glass of wine to unwind at the end of the day.”

On the other hand, dispensaries, medical marijuana treatment centers, and retail shops were tagged as “essential businesses,” and so they weren’t part of the Summary Cease and Desist Order. The 67,700 Massachusetts residents medical marijuana cardholders can still purchase their monthly stash of marijuana medication from 61 dispensaries that are open to serve. States like California, Illinois, Nevada, and Oregon also deemed their medical marijuana shops “essential.”

“Under the Essential Services Order, all licensed Marijuana Establishments and Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers conducting adult-use retail at non-collocated premises have not been deemed essential and therefore, shall close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers, and the public,” in a paragraph from the Summary Cease and Desist Order.