With recreational marijuana sales back in swing in Massachusetts following a two-month shutdown, plenty of parents are considering grabbing some pot to enjoy after the children go to bed.
But they’ll have to leave the tykes at home when they buy it, after the state Cannabis Control Commission recently clarified that no one under 21 is allowed to be present in the car during a curbside marijuana sale. Customers with minors in tow will be turned away.
That’s in contrast to alcohol, which parents can readily buy through the windows of their vehicles from breweries and liquor stores even when their children are riding along.
Curbside sales of marijuana and alcohol are newly allowed in Massachusetts under emergency state coronavirus regulations meant to prop up local businesses without exposing residents to infection. The rules ban most in-store sales, and stipulate that all recreational pot purchases happen outside.
The ban on children, commissioner Shaleen Title argued during the agency’s monthly meeting Thursday, is unfair to single parents and other guardians who cannot readily leave their children with someone else. With schools and day care centers closed because of the pandemic, she said, the curbside restrictions effectively ban many parents from accessing legal marijuana.
“We need to think about how our decisions are affecting people, now that their lives have changed dramatically,” Title said. “Parents who don’t necessarily have child care, or a partner ... or a live-in nanny, or whatever your situation is: I think you should have the right to access cannabis just like anyone else.”
Title proposed temporarily allowing children under 12 to sit buckled in the backseat while their parents conduct a curbside marijuana transaction, while still prohibiting the presence of older minors who can be safely left alone.
She suggested the rule could be phased out when recreational marijuana home deliveries begin in the coming months, which would provide parents a way to buy cannabis without ditching the kids.
“These are extremely regulated stores,” she said. “It’s worth considering an exception.”
But agency’s other three commissioners — one seat is empty following the recent resignation of Kay Doyle — strongly disagreed.
They argued state law clearly bars anyone under 21 from the premises of a marijuana store, and that in the case of curbside pickup, the customer’s car essentially is “the premises.”
“It states really explicitly in the statute what our obligation is,” commissioner Britte McBride said. “For me that’s the beginning and the end.”
However, she added, “I’m so sympathetic, particularly in this circumstance, to individuals who don’t have good support systems. I understand the frustration there.”
Commissioner Jen Flanagan strongly denounced the idea of allowing children to accompany their parents during curbside marijuana sales, saying that recreational marijuana isn’t an essential supply and that it would raise public health concerns.
“While I understand that parents may be having difficulty accessing this product, given the circumstances that we’re currently in... I don’t believe that anyone under 21 should be in the car,” Flanagan said. “I’m sorry, this is not something that is absolutely necessary. This is not food... we’re talking about a choice a parent is making.”
“I don’t care if they’re 4, 12, 20 — they shouldn’t be in that car,” she added emphatically. “It’s something that people just can’t do. ...[Parents] are going to have find a way.”