In an open letter, a coalition of more than 30 licensed cannabis operators and pending applicants stress the benefits of allowing adult sales to resume in a highly regulated environment


BOSTON — A coalition of more than 30 licensed Massachusetts cannabis business operators and pending applicants released an open letter Monday, underscoring their commitment to protecting public health and urging state officials to designate licensed adult cannabis sales as an “essential service.” The full letter is available at https://bit.ly/347VjuV.

The regulated sale of adult-use cannabis came to a halt March 24 in response to an executive order issued by Gov. Charlie Baker requiring businesses that do not provide “essential services” to close their facilities to workers, customers and the public until April 7. The order included “licensed medical marijuana retailers” in a list of essential services that would be allowed to remain operational, but it did not include adult-use cannabis retailers.

“We fully share the governor’s concern for the health and safety of Commonwealth residents,” the letter reads. “At the same time, we know from experience that tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of residents do, in fact, consider cannabis essential, which in turn makes our services essential. Individuals who purchase cannabis in the adult-use market range from veterans who are unable to obtain medical marijuana cards to hard-working citizens who rely on cannabis for a good night’s sleep. This is why other states, such as California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and even the highly impacted state of Washington, have declared adult-use sales essential or otherwise allowed adult-use sales to continue in their COVID-19 declarations.” 

The letter stresses the benefits of allowing adult sales to resume in a highly regulated environment and expresses the businesses’ desire to work with state officials to ensure adult cannabis sales are conducted safely.

“Public policy must take into account the unique status and history of cannabis in our society,” it states. “If there is no pasta at the Stop & Shop, people don’t turn to the underground pasta market. The same is not true of cannabis. Absent our services, consumers are likely to seek cannabis through unregulated, hand-to-hand transactions with friends, family members, or other individuals who are not subject to the type of strict controls that can be enforced in a licensed business. We do not believe that is in the public interest.”

The letter addresses Gov. Baker’s concern about adult cannabis sales attracting visitors from other states, noting the businesses are “fully supportive of limiting sales to Massachusetts residents during this health crisis.” It also outlines a broad range of stringent protective measures they would employ, pointing out the cannabis industry is already highly regulated and “employees are trained to follow standard operating procedures and treat regulatory compliance as a primary responsibility.”

The letter concludes by acknowledging the economic impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on all industries, and it highlights some of the unique challenges facing the cannabis industry.

“While public health and safety is our primary goal, we would be remiss if we did not note that there are thousands of good-paying jobs potentially threatened by the continued shuttering of these adult-use cannabis stores,” the letter reads. “Of course, this is unfortunately true for so many other industries in the Commonwealth and our hearts go out to all employees who are currently out of work and to business owners who are struggling to keep their companies afloat.

“What does make us unique, however, is that cannabis businesses are not eligible for any share of the hundreds of billions of dollars in federal Small Business Administration loans being made available to businesses across the country. Because cannabis remains illegal under federal law, the Paycheck Protection Program enacted by Congress last week does nothing to protect the paychecks of our workers. Therefore, we can use all the support we can get from our state.”