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Shut down amid coronavirus pandemic, Mass. recreational marijuana businesses plan to make pitch to be part of May 18 reopening plan

Recreational marijuana businesses in Massachusetts, which have suffered severe financial losses and have had to layoff and furlough workers while shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic, are expected to meet with the advisory board planning the state’s reopening.

Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday said members of the recreational marijuana industry are coming in soon to see the 17-member advisory board created last week and tasked with turning in a report by May 18 that details a reopening for Massachusetts.

“The whole point behind — I’m going to have a lot to do with obviously wherever we land on this stuff, but I think it’s important to have this forum for people who have been thinking about these questions and talking to others in their industries to have a chance to engage with a bunch of people who are either in their industry and know something about it or may know folks that are in it and certainly know a lot about the commonwealth, to help us figure out how to factor that into the sort of rules of the game that’ll be coming from our public health people,” Baker said during a press conference.

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Baker in March ordered that non-essential businesses shut their doors. While medical marijuana was considered essential, recreational companies were not. The order has been extended several times since then, and now ends on May 18, the day the advisory board is due to submit its report.

Since then, adult-use businesses have criticized the governor’s decision and have lobbied to reopen. Massachusetts is the only state where recreational marijuana is legal but sales have not been allowed during the pandemic.

Baker on Tuesday did not give more details about when and who exactly is expected to pitch the advisory board.

The advisory board is led by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy and includes elected officials, public health experts and business leaders.

Baker said last week that a phased reopening with input from large and small companies is key to a safe, effective return to normalcy.

On Tuesday, Baker said he is going to push a lot of the hypotheticals to the advisory board.

Shortly after recreational marijuana businesses were shuttered by the order, a group of companies sued the governor. A judge ruled that Baker was acting constitutionally in his order, but did suggest that there are ways for recreational businesses to operate safely.

Baker has said that a big part of his reasoning for determining recreational stores non-essential is because the shops would attract out-of-state customers.

Amid the pandemic, marijuana companies have not been able to take advantage of programs offering economic relief because cannabis remains illegal on the federal level.