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Home Editor's Picks Package stores deemed essential, but adult-use marijuana shops are closed

Package stores deemed essential, but adult-use marijuana shops are closed

Canna Provisions. (Berkshire file photo)

After seeing an especially large swell of customers since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic, adult-use marijuana shops will close their doors for two weeks.
On Monday, March 23, Gov. Charlie Baker issued a stay-at-home advisory and emergency order requiring all “non-essential” businesses to close — at least, temporarily. Among those that were not considered essential were adult-use marijuana establishments.
The Cannabis Control Commission alerted licensees to cease and desist all adult-use marijuana operations on Monday. The order went into effect at noon on Tuesday, March 24 and will last until noon on Tuesday, April 7.
For Southern Berkshire County, the order meant Theory Wellness in Great Barrington and Canna Provisions in Lee were forced to halt its recreational sales.
Throughout the last week, Theory Wellness, like other businesses throughout the commonwealth, has evolved its model, said Thomas Winstanley, director of marketing for the Great Barrington-based business.
“I think we’ve been taking everything day-by-day. Newscycles around coronavirus have been evolving rapidly and a lot of different areas and businesses are being affected. We’re no strangers to massive changes. We’re trying to be prepared for whatever may come,” said Winstanley. “I think it’s been challenging, because we’ve had to take drastic measures to position ourselves around this outbreak to ensure we are keeping a healthy workspace and are able to mitigate any potential exposures.”
Winstanley also noted that the nature of the cannabis industry is ever-changing and that Theory Wellness has had to be prepared for very different contingencies. This past year, Baker also issued a four-month ban on the sale of vaping products statewide.
“Things change very quickly, we’re used to the world of the unknowns, so we’ll attack it the way we do with every challenge,” he said. “If there is one thing the vape ban taught us, it’s to be nimble and to be able to react. You just put your best foot forward and do all you can do. We navigated a vape ban, this is very different, but we’re used to these challenges. We’ll take into account all the variables, work through them and then make the best decision through these challenges.”
But unlike Canna Provisions, Theory Wellness is one of 61 medical marijuana treatment centers currently operating in the Commonwealth and will be able to maintain its medical sales for Massachusetts medical patients through pre-order services.
And although Canna Provisions does not operate in a medical sales capacity, the organization’s CEO, Meg Sanders, says she has concerns for those not being able to provide to local clients.
“There are a lot of people that depend on purchasing from us that don’t want to drive 30 minutes to Great Barrington or Pittsfield, and want to shop locally,” said Sanders. “It’s important to understand that just because we’re adult-use, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t using [our products] for medical reasons.”
The closure, Sanders says, is disheartening. Currently, Canna Provisions has a staff of 50 people, some of which will eventually be working out of its Holyoke-based retail shop — which is waiting for its final inspection.
In the interim, the staff will be paid for their time off and provided with digital resources to stay up on top of cannabis knowledge, said Sanders.
Canna Provisions will also take its forced time off to work with the Cannabis Control Commission to make some floor layout changes to its Lee retail store.
And while the business will comply with the governor’s order, Sanders says Canna Provisions plans on contesting its status as a non-essential business.
She also noted that she found it disappointing how places like package stores are considered essential, but adult-use marijuana shops are not.
Package stores as well as beverage production and distribution facilities are included under food and beverage operations under state policy in the executive order. The order is driven by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency guidelines.
“It’s just archaic,” said Sanders. “People deserve access to products that help them manage every-day life … People deserve safe access to cannabis.”

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