Cannabis dispensaries in Massachusetts began serving recreational marijuana customers again on Memorial Day following a two-month closure ordered to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Gov. Charlie Baker ordered recreational marijuana retailers to close in March, although medical marijuana dispensaries were deemed essential businesses and allowed to remain open. Shops supplying both medical marijuana and recreational cannabis were directed to serve registered patients only.
Last week, regulators with the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission announced that recreational marijuana retailers would be allowed to resume business with precautions in place on May 25 as part of a phased reopening plan issued by Baker’s office. Shawn Collins, the executive director of the agency, noted in a press release that the necessary precautions have already been implemented by medical marijuana providers.
“The Cannabis Control Commission, with the cooperation of licensees, municipalities, and most importantly, registered qualifying patients, has demonstrated that we are effectively able to preserve public health and safety through curbside operations and other emergency protocols,” Collins said. “I am confident that our adult-use licensees and their customers will adapt just the same when they reopen under similar protocols next week.”
To comply with the phased reopening order, cannabis retailers will be taking orders online or over the phone for pickup at the dispensary door or curbside. Social distancing and sanitization protocols will be established and posted at each location.
Keeping Customers and Staff Safe
Kobie Evans, the co-owner of Pure Oasis, the sole retailer selling recreational cannabis in Boston, said the shop had already been preparing to reopen before the date was announced.
“We’ve spent the last couple weeks building models around different scenarios — whether it’s curbside-only, or appointment-required, or order-ahead — and doing those gymnastics to figure out how we’d operate in each environment,” said Evans, whose shop first opened just days before the March shutdown order. “We’ll do whatever it takes to keep our customers and staff safe.”
Caroline Frankel, the owner of Caroline’s Cannabis in Uxbridge, told local media that the 10 employees at her business had all agreed to return to work.
“Putting my staff on a leave of absence was one of the worst parts of closing, so to be able to make those phone calls was really exciting,” Frankel said. “I’ve been worried about them. We all want to get back to work.”
As the recreational marijuana retailers reopen for business, getting used to the new procedures isn’t the only challenge for business owners and their employees. Business is brisk, with lines to pick up orders at some shops going around the block. Amanda Rositano, the president of medical and recreational cannabis retailer New England Treatment Access (NETA), asked that consumers be understanding as new procedures are put in place.”There’s definitely a pent-up demand out there. We are asking our customers to be patient,” Rositano said.