Judge Upholds Temporary Ban on Recreational Cannabis Sales in Massachusetts

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A state order was upheld by a Suffolk County judge, regarding the temporary ban on recreational cannabis sales in Massachusetts.

Judge Kenneth Salinger ruled that Gov. Charlie Baker acted within his legal authority when halt of adult-use sales during the COVID-19 pandemic was ordered by Gov. Baker. A request for the reopening of pot shops was denied by the judge on Thursday. The judge had claimed that Baker’s decision regarding the opening of medical cannabis facilities and liquor stores, and the closing of recreational cannabis shops, was based on rational grounds.

The ruling implies the prohibition of adult-use cannabis sales, during this time period. However, Gov. Baker’s order has not affected the sales of medical cannabis products, which will consequently continue. Furthermore, yesterday’s court ruling will not affect the ability of patients to access their medications.

Gov. Baker has reported that the reason behind taking this decision was the attempt to keep out-of-state visitors from traveling to Massachusetts for the purchase of recreational cannabis. Gov. Baker further added that the frequent travel would consequently increase the circulation of people that would minimize social distancing and increase the chances of the spread of the contagious COVID-19 virus.

Judge Salinger has expressed that although he does not necessarily show agreement with Baker’s decision, there is no denying that the governor still had the authority to make the call, by law. In order to overturn Gov. Baker’s decision, a case would be needed to be presented in the court of law, where it had to be proven that the governor’s action had no rational grounds.

Judge Salinger wrote in a statement, that the governor’s concern was reasonable and understandable regarding the relatively few adult-use cannabis establishments in Massachusetts being the attraction of high volumes of customers that included people from other states, compared to the liquor stores or dispensaries. Salinger further added that the governor’s decision of the difference in treatment between medical cannabis facilities and liquor store, and adult-use cannabis establishments, was based on rational grounds and is hence constitutional.

A significant number of cannabis companies had brought up this case and attempted to argue that Gov. Baker’s decision was an unfair target towards cannabis stores, whereas liquor stores were allowed to stay open.
Judge Salinger showed agreement with the argument of the store owners’ regarding the consideration of delivery and curbside pickup options as they may reduce much of the governor’s concern.

Judge Salinger reported that a convincing case was presented regarding the other ways the concerns could be addressed that would not prohibit the operation of adult-use cannabis establishments and would let them restart their businesses safely, with no harm to the public health.

Judge Salinger further added that safety measures taken could be a temporary limitation of recreational cannabis sales, where Massachusetts residents will place advanced orders and arrive in designated time-slots, authorization of curbside deliveries of cannabis products by adult-use retail stores just like medical cannabis treatment centers, and the requirement of other safety measures such as safe physical distancing between customers and workers.

Adam Fine has represented the cannabis stores and is a Vicente Sederberg lawyer. Adam Fine has called the upholding of the governor’s decision by the judge, “unfortunate.” Fine further added that the court had rejected Gov. Baker’s stated rationale regarding the decision of closing these establishments because of the “lawful” limitation of adult-use cannabis to Massachusetts residents.

However, as the reviewing of legal options is ongoing by the plaintiffs in this case, the population is in hopes that the governor will follow his legal option of the reopening of adult-use cannabis while issuing a temporary ban on recreational cannabis sales to non-residents.

Saher Asad Mir: