A county judge ruled that Gov. Baker’s decision to close recreational stores was “constitutional,” while his former mentor called the move an “economic death sentence.”
Last month, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker forced the closure of all recreational marijuana shops in the state to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. It is the only state that has prohibited recreational sales during the pandemic, though Baker believes leaving stores open would attract out-of-state visitors.
Recreational marijuana stores sued Baker in response, citing the irreparable financial damage such a closure will cause. Massachusetts marijuana stores lose $2 million in sales every day they’re not in business, according to Marijuana Business Daily. Stores argued that Baker allowing liquor stores to remain open but closing recreational stores was an arbitrary decision.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez agreed with the opinion. Suffolk Superior Court Judge Kenneth Salinger did not, however. The judge instead ruled in favor of Baker, leaving state marijuana stores wondering when they will reopen.
“It was reasonable for the governor to be concerned that the relatively few adult-use marijuana establishments in Massachusetts are more likely than liquor stores or [medical marijuana treatment centers] to attract high volumes of customers, including people traveling from other states,” Salinger wrote. “The governor’s decision to treat medical marijuana facilities and liquor stores differently than adult-use marijuana establishments has a rational basis and therefore is constitutional.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who is a mentor of Baker’s, spoke out against the decision to keep recreational marijuana stores closed. He described the decision as an “economic death sentence” in Commonwealth Magazine this week.
“This has been widely—and correctly—viewed as a matter of social equity and economic justice,” Weld wrote. “Many such entrepreneurs borrowed money and risked all they had to open in the adult use market, which is just now starting to bear fruit. They could be wiped out if they are forced to remain closed — the exact opposite of what the law, and the cannabis commission, intended.”
Though Baker’s order allows medical dispensaries to remain open as an “essential business,” his decision stands in stark contrast to those in other legal states across the country.
“Of the 11 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized adult-use cannabis, only Massachusetts has imposed this economic death sentence on small and previously disadvantaged business owners,” Weld wrote. “In the other states, three let storefronts remain open, two are permitting deliveries, four are allowing both open storefronts and deliveries, and two have not yet launched recreational programs.”