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420? Not so much.
After being shut down in March because of the coronavirus epidemic, golf courses last week reopened in Massachusetts, much to the relief of bored duffers across the state.
But while the landed gentry were jostling for tee times and keeping 6 feet away from each other at the men-only bar-and-grill in the clubhouse locker room, Bay State marijuana consumers were scratching their heads.
That’s because the state’s recreational pot shops remain closed, even as the Governor Charlie Baker’s administration progressively loosens restrictions on other companies, including plainly nonessential operations such as golf courses and florists. Pressure on Baker to reverse the ban on retail pot mounted last week, however.
On Tuesday, lawmakers took testimony on a bill proposed by state Senator Diana DiZoglio that would steer forgivable loans to marijuana companies, chambers of commerce, and other organizations that are ineligible for federal business relief payments. The payments would help cannabis firms cover payroll and other expenses.
It’s unclear whether the measure will pass. But proponents hope it will at least produce an official legislative analysis of how much such a bailout would cost — a total likely to be many millions of dollars — giving them more rhetorical ammo to argue for a quick end to the recreational shutdown, which one progressive representative called “bananas.”
The hearing, held virtually, featured poignant testimony from a diverse slate of marijuana entrepreneurs and advocates, who said the shutdown threatened to bankrupt their businesses and destroy the state’s vision of an equitable cannabis industry.
Baker’s office didn’t comment on the bill, but the governor did tell reporters that members of the cannabis industry would soon meet with a committee he’s convened to plan the reopening of the Massachusetts economy.
It’s unclear exactly with whom Baker’s committee will meet. Even Cannabis Control Commission chairman Steve Hoffman said he hasn’t received an invitation yet.
Speaking of Hoffman, he and other top commission officials said publicly last Thursday that the agency believes recreational sales can safely resume, using measures such as curbside pickup. In his strongest comments on the controversy to date, Hoffman said it was “unfair” that Massachusetts marijuana firms are both the only ones in the country to be forced to close and also ineligible for federal assistance.
Baker did not respond to repeated requests for comment.