The New England Treatment Access marijuana dispensary in Brookline is sharply limiting orders amid a severe staff shortage related to the coronavirus pandemic, company officials acknowledged this week following complaints from customers.
Managers at NETA have asked at least 30 employees of the firm’s Brookline shop to stay home and self-quarantine because they interacted with two colleagues who tested positive for the virus earlier this month, a spokesman told the Globe. That leaves only a handful of workers available to process online orders for cannabis products and otherwise staff the dispensary, which was once among the busiest pot shops in the country before closing to walk-in customers because of the pandemic.
“Two employees who were working together in an office [at the Brookline dispensary] tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month,” a NETA spokesman said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, and following company protocols, members of the staff who came in contact with the two employees are in self-quarantine and are in contact with the Brookline Board of Health. To date, no other employees have tested positive for the coronavirus.”
The spokesman added that NETA’s hybrid medical/recreational marijuana store in Brookline is routinely deep-cleaned, and has strict protocols in place meant to limit close contact between and among employees and customers.
“We take these steps to ensure the safety of our patients, customers, and all our employees,” he said.
A message on NETA’s website early Wednesday said the company’s Brookline shop was already “at capacity” for recreational orders for the day, and directed customers to try placing an order in the evening for pickup the next day.
Licensed marijuana companies in Massachusetts are required to disclose coronavirus infections among their workforces to the state Cannabis Control Commission, which has received such reports from at least 10 different companies. A commission spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment and the total number of cannabis workers reported to have tested positive by their employers.
To date, seven of NETA’s 750 employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, the company spokesman said. Those include at least two other workers at the Brookline store who became ill with COVID-19 last spring plus one each at NETA’s Northampton dispensary and the firm’s cultivation and processing facility in Franklin, according to data previously provided by the commission.
“Employees who felt symptoms never came into work,” the spokesman stressed, noting the rate of infection among employees was well below the state average.
The spring cases prompted accusations by NETA employees that the company was doing too little to protect them, and figured heavily in a campaign by the United Food and Commercial Workers union to organize the firm’s workforce.