Author: Benjamin Dreiker
May 28, 2020
As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic (the disease responsible for COVID-19), businesses in Massachusetts have seen a drastic loss in profits due to Governor Baker’s order to close all non-essential businesses. One of the businesses that have been classified as non-essential were recreational marijuana dispensaries. However, on Monday, May 18, Governor Baker announced a 4-Phase plan for reopening the Massachusetts economy. As a part of the Phase 1 approach, recreational dispensaries will be allowed to reopen on May 25 with curbside pickup to minimize face-to-face exposure with individuals in the store. Then by Phase 2 of the plan individuals may then browse inside the stores.
This news is crucial to the cannabis industry because as of March 23, recreational dispensaries have been closed due to the virus. Whereas, medical dispensaries have been deemed to be essential and remained open during this time. This provoked a group of cannabis businesses to file a lawsuit against Governor Baker. One of the Governor’s purposes for declaring recreational dispensaries as non-essential businesses was to prevent out-of-state visitors from visiting Massachusetts at a time where public health officials have urged states to reduce travel.
Thankfully, on May 25, recreational cannabis dispensaries will finally reopen but not without a few restrictions in place. Cannabis companies must implement mandatory safety standards to prevent further spread of COVID-19. Such standards that must be implemented should include a COVID-19 control plan which must be available during any inspection. Furthermore, employees will be required to wear facial coverings and maintain social distancing guidelines. Cannabis companies should also regularly sanitize highly-touched areas in addition to putting hygiene protocols in place.
Some cannabis companies face serious issues with regard to the curbside pickup plan listed in the reopening process. One such issue is that they may not have adequate designated parking to accommodate the increased customer capacity. According to a Boston Globe article, some cannabis companies avoid this issue by creating a plan whereby “customers order ahead online or by phone and be given a two-hour window to pick up their products. When they arrive at the dispensary, their ID will be checked by a staff member, who will then radio inside for products to be brought.” Some may close their parking completely to allow for ample space so customers can social distance themselves.
Cannabis companies around the state are trying to overcome issues with the curbside pickup plan. Overall it appears that the online ordering method is the best system to work with. However, what dispensaries are really asking for from clients is to be patient. In an interview between Leafly and Brandon Pollock, the CEO and co-founder of Theory Wellness he said, “We have months of pent up demand, and lots of consumers not working that have more time to use cannabis. That demand is coupled with the requirements and social responsibility to do this safely.” Therefore, cannabis companies should anticipate a large customer turnout in the reopening phases.
Picture Credit: STEFAN WERMUTH/PHOTOGRAPHER: STEFAN WERMUTH/BLO