CCC orders halt to recreational pot sales

  • People wait in line at INSA in Easthampton on Monday. The sale of marijuana products for non-medical use is being halted by Gov. Baker's non-essential services order, which went into effect Tuesday at noon. The Cannabis Control Commission also issued a cease and desist order that puts a halt to recreational marijuana sales until at least April 7.  STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/24/2020 2:27:36 PM

NORTHAMPTON – The Cannabis Control Commission has ordered a halt to recreational marijuana sales until April 7 to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

The CCC’s cease and desist order went into effect at noon on Tuesday and followed Gov. Charlie Baker’s order Monday to close all non-essential businesses at least until noon on April 7. While the three dispensaries in Hampshire County – Rise Amherst, New England Treatment Access in Northampton and INSA in Easthampton – will be allowed to continue medical marijuana sales, they will not be able to sell recreational marijuana during this period.

“Registered medical marijuana patients will continue to have access to their needed products,” said Amanda Rositano, president of NETA.

Steve Reilly, one of the owners of INSA, said that recreational sales are a significant part of INSA’s business and that the company is now considering layoffs.

“Its a significant portion of the revenue,” he said, noting that INSA will continue with its medical marijuana sales. 

The CCC’s order was issued because recreational marijuana retailers were not deemed essential under the governor’s order Monday. Package stores selling alcohol are included as essential services and can remain open. 

Baker’s justification for this difference was that the recreational dispensaries attract significant out-of-state business.

The Commonwealth Dispensary Association took issue with this position, and in a statement said that two-thirds of customers who use recreational marijuana use it to manage medical conditions and symptoms.

“This loss of access would be akin to losing out on over the counter remedies for many,” reads part of the association’s statement. “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.”

Both Rositano and Reilly said they hope the governor will reconsider his decision on recreational pot sales being classified as a non-essential service. 

Rositano said NETA has been following all local, state and federal guidance concerning the virus. She said that hash marks on the floor aid people in social distancing, surfaces are regularly sanitized, and the number of people in spaces has been limited. Additionally, Rositano said that all orders must be placed ahead of time.

“That really minimizes any wait times or interactions in the stores,” she said.

In addition to its dispensary in Northampton, NETA has a Brookline dispensary.

Rositano described the effect of the virus on NETA’s business as a “fluid and developing situation.” She also said that people choosing to take paid or unpaid time off has reduced the number of people working there.

At INSA, Reilly said the pandemic has “affected everything quite frankly.” 

Some of the measures the company has taken to deal with the risk from the virus include marking the dispensary floor to aid people in maintaining six feet of social distance, switching to only express pickup for orders, separating customers from employees, and hiring increased security and police details to help maintain social distancing.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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