The Cape and Islands’ two recreational marijuana retailers will be temporarily shut down come noon Tuesday, due to Gov. Charlie Baker’s order to close all nonessential businesses.
The order will keep Curaleaf in Provincetown and Green Lady on Nantucket closed until April 7, and possibly beyond, depending on the status of COVID-19.
The sale of medical marijuana is unaffected by the order, leaving Triple M dispensary in Mashpee the sole Cape and Islands operation to remain open.
While Massachusetts voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016, retailers in the region have been slow to open.
The Green Lady started operation on Nantucket in August. Provincetown’s Curaleaf became the first recreational pot retailer on the Cape when it opened in late January.
Baker’s emergency order left recreational pot shop owners scrambling to get clarification Monday from the Cannabis Control Commission.
Before Baker’s order Monday, Nantucket and Provincetown had issued municipal emergency orders that shut down all nonessential services, but both had allowed recreational marijuana retailers to stay open because of the limited availability of medical marijuana on the Cape.
“We intentionally kept it open for that reason,” said Stephen Katsurinis, chairman of the Provincetown Board of Health, who pointed out that Triple M in Mashpee was about an hour’s drive from his town. “We are concerned about people not having access,” he said.
Access to marijuana on Nantucket is particularly difficult.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and because Nantucket is surrounded by federal waters, all of the growing, testing and production must be done on the island.
Green Lady is a “small family business,” according to Nicole Campbell, who runs the operation with her husband, Rupert, and daughter Corbet.
“Everything is so much harder on the island,” Campbell said. “We have a complete laboratory set up.”
The governor’s order has been confusing, said Campbell, who assumes Baker’s directive won’t affect her grow facility since it is classified as agricultural.
“We have thousands of plants,” she said. “You have to have workers to take care of your crops. What would you do, let all the plants die? That would be inconceivable.”
There are no medical marijuana facilities on Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard.
Casey Sherman, of Regan Communications, provided a written statement from Curaleaf Massachusetts president Patrik Jonsson:
“Due to Governor Charlie Baker’s ‘stay at home’ advisory, our adult-use dispensary in Provincetown will be closing at noon on Tuesday and is expected to re-open on Tuesday April 7, 2020. Curaleaf’s medical dispensaries located in Hanover and Oxford are designated as ‘essential’ and will remain open.”
“We have taken added steps to ensure the well-being of our patients, customers, and employees,” Jonsson’s statement continued. “We are grateful for the Provincetown and Ware teams’ hard work and contributions during this difficult time, and we remain hopeful that as soon as we are allowed to re-open, we can re-hire and welcome these employees back to work.”
Kevin O’Reilly, Triple M’s chief financial officer, said the company was ready to close its adult-use retail store in Plymouth at noon Tuesday.
“I was surprised,” O’Reilly said of the governor’s order. “I felt something was going to happen, but not that quick.”
Triple M will continue to keep its two medical marijuana dispensaries, in Plymouth and Mashpee, open.
Plymouth’s dispensary operates seven days a week, so its hours likely will remain the same. “In Mashpee, we’re closed on Sundays so we will probably be talking about that,” O’Reilly said.
O’Reilly said both dispensaries have instituted social distancing, with small numbers of customers inside at one time and at least 6 feet apart.
Security staff, both inside and outside the building, make sure customers adhere to the 6-foot separation rule.
Both dispensaries are limiting the first hour of business each day to clients over 60 and those whose immune systems may be compromised.
The president of Commonwealth Dispensary Association, an association of Massachusetts medical and adult use marijuana companies, issued the following statement:
“We are appreciative of the Administration’s inclusion of medical cannabis as an essential service, however, classifying adult use cannabis retailers as non-essential on the grounds that they attract customers from out of state overlooks the relief and comfort these products provide to thousands of Massachusetts residents and the efforts undertaken by the operations themselves,” said association president David Torrisi.
“Although adult use is regulated separately from medical, two-thirds of customers use cannabis for management of medical conditions and symptoms,” Torrisi continued in his statement. “This loss of access would be akin to losing out on over the counter remedies for many. For others, cannabis provides a small measure of relaxation which can help to ease the anxieties we are all facing during this time, much like a glass of wine to unwind at the end of the day.”
Torrisi ended his statement by calling on Baker to reconsider classification of recreational marijuana businesses.
These businesses provide therapeutic value to thousands of Massachusetts residents as well as vital revenue from taxes that will be more critical than ever in relief efforts.”
Follow Christine Legere on Twitter: @ChrisLegereCCT.