In the week since Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker deemed medical marijuana businesses essential and called for the closure of their adult-use counterparts, Bay State residents have flocked to register for the state’s medical program in an effort to secure access to legal weed during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to concurrent reports from WBUR and MetroWest Daily News, Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) regulators said that medical marijuana sign-ups have nearly tripled in the last week alone, with over 1,300 applicants looking to join the program, compared to only 500 registrations the week before Baker halted recreational pot sales.
To make the process easier for the swaths of incoming patients, the CCC has implemented new rules that allow applicants to be certified for a medical marijuana card over the phone, preventing a rush to doctors' offices that might jeopardize social distancing and safety guidelines.
“There’s always been a belief that people were — some people and I don’t know the percentages — but some people were using the adult-use market to satisfy their medical needs,” CCC Chairman Steven Hoffman told reporters Friday. “And I think since the adult-use market is temporarily shut down, I think those people are applying for medical licenses.”
While a number of legal weed states have given both medical and adult-use dispensaries “essential” status in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, Gov. Baker has so far rebuked calls from state legislators and cannabis regulators to re-open the state’s recreational pot shops.
"If we make recreational marijuana available, we are going to have to deal with the fact that people are going to come here from all over the place, across the Northeast, and create issues for us with respect to the fundamental issue we are trying to solve for here — which is to stop the spread," Baker said at a press conference last week. "And for that reason and that reason alone, I think this is just a non-starter with us."
But with thousands of new patients expected in the coming months, CCC officials are already looking into ways to temporarily fold adult-use growers and processors into the medical program to both bolster supply and help rec businesses stay afloat amidst the shut-down. As of press time, though, those regulations have not been confirmed, and similarly, it is not clear if the state has a plan to help support recreational dispensaries.
"We do have to be mindful of [the] supply chain," CCC executive director Shawn Collins told WBUR. "And so looking at manufacturing, cultivation, and allowing for some wholesale operations there could be a consideration — which really would leave the retail aspect of the essential services as the remaining elements of the shutdown."
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