Law360 (April 8, 2020, 11:51 AM EDT) — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker was hit with a suit Wednesday by several recreational cannabis dispensaries and a medicinal marijuana patient who claim his executive orders shutting down the stores during the COVID-19 pandemic are crushing their businesses and hurting public health.
The suit, filed in state court, comes after an extensive lobbying campaign to get Baker to change his mind about classifying recreational cannabis as nonessential during the public health crisis. As Massachusetts is the only state in the region to legalize adult-use marijuana, the governor has said keeping recreational dispensaries open could lead to an influx of out-of-state consumers during a time when Massachusetts is enforcing a stay-at-home advisory and social distancing.
Baker has said opening the adult-use shops before May 4, the earliest possible date for reopening nonessential businesses, is a “nonstarter.” Meanwhile, the state has allowed medicinal marijuana dispensaries to remain open.
“By classifying adult-use marijuana establishments as non-essential, while classifying similar regulated businesses — such as liquor stores and medical marijuana dispensaries — as essential, the executive orders violate the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs and exceed the governor’s executive authority,” the complaint argues.
In other states, including California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada and Washington, recreational marijuana has been deemed an essential business. Michigan and Oregon have also set up guidelines to keep the shops open.
Recreational stores in Massachusetts have said they are willing to adhere to social distancing guidelines, use curbside pickup and appointment-only sales, and sell only to Massachusetts residents.
Baker has said the residents-only restriction may not