Grow, Gift, Repair

Lawsuit over rec shutdown part 2

“If it continues, this mandatory closure will cause profound and irreparable damage to the nascent adult-use marijuana industry; will deprive Massachusetts residents of safe access to regulated marijuana; and, will make it very difficult or impossible (e.g.,in Nantucket) for certain medical-marijuana users to obtain marijuana legally,” the lawsuit states.

Parties in the complaint include The Green Lady, Nantucket’s only open recreational cannabis dispensary; Ascend, which has a facility in Boston in the final stages of state approval; CommCann, a co-located medical and recreational marijuana operation in Millis that also has a medical marijuana dispensary in Southborough; MassGrow, a large scale recreational cultivation facility in Athol; Bloom Brothers, a recreational dispensary in Pittsfield; and Stephen Mandile — a veteran and marijuana advocate who is seeking to open his own recreational cannabis store.

Baker defended the decision to shutter recreational shops at a Wednesday press conference. Opening the recreational shops would “cut completely against the entire strategy” of social distancing due to a possible influx of people from other states, he said.

“We’ve made pretty clear that we’ve tried very hard to implement a series of procedures … here in Massachusetts to protect the people of Massachusetts from community spread,” Baker said. “We’ve also said on a number of occasions that significant numbers of the customers who procure cannabis at recreational marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts are not from Massachusetts, because many of the states around us — in fact, I think almost all of them — have not legalized recreational marijuana.”

In the months before the pandemic, the state’s marijuana industry was producing nearly $550 million in gross sales to date, sending millions of dollars in tax revenue to state coffers. According to the lawsuit, the state’s recreational dispensaries generate approximately $13 million in weekly sales in Massachusetts.

The recreational industry came to a halt on March 23, when Baker ordered all non-essential businesses to close. The order was updated on March 31, saying the closure would last until at least May 4.

The suit points to the fact that medical marijuana stores and liquor stores have been allowed to remain open during the crisis, and says recreational dispensaries should be reopened to Massachusetts residents only.

Baker said previously he was closing recreational stores because people from out of state were flocking to Massachusetts dispensaries.

According to the lawsuit, Massachusetts appears to be the only state that has allowed medical marijuana sales to continue while halting recreational cannabis sales. The lawsuit notes that California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada and Washington have deemed medical and recreational marijuana “essential” businesses. Michigan and Oregon have allowed continued operation of all cannabis businesses as well.