NETA, INSA announce layoffs due to COVID-19

  • NETA in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 4/10/2020 4:12:49 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Citing an 85% decrease in store traffic partly due to restrictions caused by Gov. Charlie Baker’s closure of nonessential services, which halted adult-use marijuana sales during the COVID-19 pandemic, New England Treatment Access on Friday announced it has reduced its workforce, furloughing some employees and laying off others.

A spokesperson for NETA, Peter Brown, said Friday, “We are not sharing numbers” in regard to the employees affected. NETA President Amanda Rositano said in a statement that the company has been “swift” in changing the way it does business by ensuring social distancing and following guidelines from local, state and federal health officials. These precautions, along with Baker’s emergency order to close nonessential services until May 4, led to a decrease in store traffic, she said.

“Given this situation, we have no alternative than to make the extremely difficult decision to reduce our valued workforce to adjust to this new normal, as well as place a number of our employees on furloughs until the governor lifts his order against adult-use sales,” Rositano said in the statement.

It is unclear exactly how many employees are affected by the company’s workforce reduction. Medical marijuana dispensaries have been considered essential services by Baker’s administration and have remained open.

“Gov. Baker’s decision to halt the sale of adult-use cannabis has resulted in the unintended consequences of restricting important access for customers who rely on cannabis for their well-being and the loss of jobs for many hard-working employees in our industry,” Rositano said.

Rositano said in the statement that the company has been in discussion with Baker and his staff “to reiterate that we can both ensure public safety, meet the health needs of our community and help us preserve the jobs of our employees.”

Adult-use cannabis both reduces the burden on the public health system for those suffering from a variety of conditions and “is an important therapy” for people who cannot be on a state registry for a federally illegal product, Rositano argued. If people are restricted in accessing cannabis “when they need it most,” some may be forced to turn to the illicit market, she said.

“Allowing adult-use access to only Massachusetts residents, while abiding by the comprehensive store safety protocols that are already in place, would benefit many individuals who cannot afford medical registration fees, veterans who cannot be on the registry, as well as others who rely on state-tested alternatives to opioids and cannot navigate the regulatory process,” Rositano said.

NETA has a COVID-19 Task Force, which continues to oversee and update the company’s proactive measures and “is in the best position to protect our associates and community,” Rositano said. 

“As we part ways with many talented people, we want to thank them for their passion, their dedication, and all they’ve done to help us care for our patients and customers,” Rositano said. “We are steadfast in our mission of providing cannabis products to improve the well-being of those we serve and look forward to opening our doors again to our adult-use customers.”

A spokesperson for INSA, Lewis Goldstein, said that in Easthampton, there have been layoffs of employees — he did not know the exact number — due to a reduction of store hours and a decline in customer volume related to the governor’s closure order.

Regarding the closure of recreational marijuana businesses, Goldstein added, INSA “feels that adult-use cannabis should be an essential business.”

Michael Connors can be reached at 
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