Every Massachusetts recreational dispensary has been ordered to close

Published Apr 7, 2020 01:00 p.m. ET
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As the worst contagious disease that most of us have seen in our life takes hold right across the world, the majority of Canadian provinces and US states that have legalized cannabis, have deemed dispensaries and liquor stores as essential services.  That designation made it so that most dispensaries could keep their doors open to the public, but one state has chosen to take a different stance, by ordering the closure of every single Massachusetts recreational dispensary.

Define essential

Not everyone has the same idea of what an essential service should entail. Though most would agree that those who make, sell, or offer essential items or services like grocery clerks, EMS workers, firefighters, and the police, should be included in this list of necessary work, we still see plenty of others get called into work day after day.

Most cannabis dispensaries and alcohol stores will remain open because going without these essential services can quite literally cost lives, and we, of course, need fresh food and emergency crews to fight off other disasters that might occur during this sensitive time. However, an essential service should offer a significant supply of things that we need, not those that we just like to have around because it makes us feel good.

The Argument

In Massachusetts, cannabis is entirely legal for adult consumption, but the leaders of this state have decided that its residents don’t truly need access to this service. Therefore, it has now dropped in status down to a non-essential service, which is forcing thousands of residents into a precarious situation. Luckily, medical patients will still be granted access to their much-needed medicine, but those who don’t’ hold a current valid medical card will be out of luck until this all blows over.

When it took effect

On March 23rd, Massachusetts governor, Charlie Baker, announced an amended emergency order that requires all businesses, that don’t offer services that are essential to COVID-19 and residents, to close. Included in this release was the news that many cannabis enthusiasts feared that all cannabis dispensaries would have to close their doors by March 24th at noon.

They are, however, encouraged to continue their work remotely, but since most are not set up or prepared to move towards more digital-friendly and germ-free options, the majority of these stores closed pretty much immediately. The order so far has been extended to last until at least April 7that noon, but after watching how quickly the virus has spread, most are assuming that it will realistically last much longer than that.

Medical dispensaries to remain open

It is important to note that while recreational sales might be taking a leave of absence in Massachusetts, any person or patient that currently holds a valid medical card will still be able to access their life-saving medicine through licensed medical facilities that are spread across the state. These stores are now forced to use special precautions, including screening potential customers, extra sanitization, and switching over to a different model that keeps immune-compromised individuals as safe as possible.

Very few consumers in need hold a valid medical marijuana card

The problem with this kind of ultimate ruling is that it doesn’t take into consideration the millions of people who use cannabis for medical purposes without holding a valid medical card or prescription. This is especially true in regions that allow recreational marijuana products to be sold to legal aged adults, as a license or prescription can be difficult and costly to obtain, when so many doctors disagree with the all-natural therapeutic treatment.

In fact, some experts believe that the majority of those who need cannabis and derived products the most are those who are too afraid to seek the assistance of a doctor. This means that there could potentially be thousands of unmedicated residents in Massachusetts for the foreseeable future which may lead to a separate health crisis of exponential proportions, and they suffer in silence at home.

How long will it last?

So far, the emergency order for this region is only being extended in two-week increments, so there is no way to know for certain how long it might last for. On the other hand, we have government officials who are repeating that could it be as little as a few weeks, but if you look at the other side of things by evaluating other countries that have dealt with this outbreak earlier on the game, it’s easy to see that social distancing and all non-essential travel and work could be on pause for several months to come.

Why cannabis dispensaries are considered an essential service

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