When governments issued lockdown and social distancing orders to curb the spread of the coronavirus, most states with legal marijuana programs deemed cannabis an essential service, allowing both recreational pot shops and medical marijuana dispensaries to continue operating. In Massachusetts, however, only medical marijuana shops were deemed essential, forcing residents who wanted to indulge in recreational pot during the lockdown to turn elsewhere. With the state slowly reopening, recreational marijuana retailers have been allowed to reopen since they were forced to shut down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With customers now able to order in advance and pick up their purchases outside, some recreational pot shops in Massachusetts have seen some pretty long lines. During the lockdown, medical marijuana establishments were granted extra permissions like online ordering and curbside pickups to keep the staff and customers safe, and they have finally been extended to recreational marijuana shops. In response, customers have showed up in droves, with shops like Solar Therapeutics and Pure Bliss, the first pot shop to open in Boston, seeing dozens of customers lined up on their sidewalks.
“It’s a sort of tricky situation, because we understand the importance of preserving lives, but we also want to be able to provide our customers with the products that they need,” says Pure Oasis co-owner Kevin Hart. The state government had been under a ton of pressure from advocates and stakeholders to allow recreational pot shops to continue operating during the lockdown, with Governor Baker arguing that doing so would attract out of state customers and help facilitate the spread of the virus. However, tons of people who didn’t have prescriptions for medical pot still needed access to marijuana, and according to Chelsea resident Ben Crocker, “a lot of people were going back to the streets to get their self-medication.”
The state’s reopening plan now allows pot shops to open, albeit with some restrictions to reduce the risk of infection for staff and customers. “Our products are in high demand. People need this,” says Hart, with customers waiting as long as two hours to be served by his staff. According to NETA President Amanda Rositano, the restrictions mean her Brookline store will only be able to serve around 500 customers a day, only 20% of the 2,500 customers it serves.
“It’s been tough to stay on our feet but we have gotten by and this is a good chance to be able to reintroduce adult use, albeit in a reduced way.”
Analysts say this reopening of recreational pot shops in Massachusetts is likely to be seen as a long overdue move by industry actors like Plus Products Inc. (CSE: PLUS) (OTCQX: PLPRF) who saw the problems caused by the closure as avoidable ones.
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