Pot Advocates Call For Gov. Baker To End Ban On Adult-Use Sales

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Weed stores want to sell pot as users remain locked up at home during the coronavirus lockdown.

A group of marijuana-legalization advocates, doctors and a member of the Cannabis Control Commission are calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to end the ban — a move they said would bring Massachusetts into line with other cannabis-legal states.

Shaleen Title, a member of the Cannabis Control Commission, said that safety measures in place at medical cannabis dispensaries — which have been allowed to remain open in Massachusetts because they’ve been designated essential businesses — could be used at adult-use retail locations if they were allowed to reopen.

Those measures include “enhancing sanitation procedures, limiting the number of patrons and allowing curbside pickup,” Title said.

Jim Borghesani, who worked on Massachusetts’ 2016 legalization campaign, noted that California, Illinois, Washington, Oregon and Michigan are allowing adult-use cannabis sales amid their stay-at-home conditions.

Iraq War veteran Stephen Mandile, an Uxbridge selectman, said adult-use dispensaries are used by many veterans who don’t register for a medical-marijuana card due to stigma, potential employment repercussions, discomfort in talking to doctors about their conditions or inability to afford the medical certification fee.

“The ban is really hurting these veterans, particularly at this time of incredible stress,” Mandile said.

Kobie Evans, co-owner of Pure Oasis in Dorchester, the only adult-use dispensary in Boston and the only minority-owned one on the East Coast, opened three weeks ago, only to have to close two weeks later, while liquor stores were allowed to remain open.

“To people without a medical-marijuana card, we’ve been a lifeline,” Evans said. “This puts them in a precarious situation. Us being closed helps the black market flourish.”

A spokesman for Baker referred to the governor’s comments last week, when he said that recreational-marijuana dispensaries were not considered essential services.

“The main reason for that is because Massachusetts is one of the few states in a big geographical area that has available recreational marijuana and a ton of traffic associated with that coming from other states,” Baker said.

Dr. Marion McNabb, a public health specialist and CEO of Cannabis Community Care and Research Network, said the lack of access for those without a medical card, and other adult-use consumers who could be facing higher levels of anxiety during the pandemic, “will undoubtedly force them to purchase cannabis from the unregulated market” and “deviate from stay-at-home and social-distancing orders intended to protect the public’s health.”

Allowing only Massachusetts residents to access adult-use cannabis, she said, could alleviate the inter-state travel concerns Baker expressed.