The busiest recreational marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts has halted sales to the general public, as others ban walk-in customers to comply with new rules aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
In response to Gov. Charlie Baker’s new restrictions on public gatherings, New England Treatment Access announced Monday that their store in Brookline will only be open to medical patients going forward — and that adult-use purchases would be “temporarily paused.”
“During this health care crisis, the safety of our patients, our customers, and our employees are our top priority,” Amanda Rositano, the president of NETA, said in a statement. “We appreciate everyone’s understanding and patience during this unprecedented time.”
In a letter to customers Monday morning, the company — which regularly draws long lines at its Brookline shop — said the decision was made in order to comply with the state’s ban on public gatherings over 25 people, which takes effect Tuesday. For the first time, NETA also began requiring medical patients at the Brookline dispensary to reserve orders ahead though their website.
NETA had previously eliminated walk-in orders for adult-use purchases and ramped up cleaning headed into this past weekend in the midst of the growing coronavirus crisis. And as WGBH reported Saturday, the Brookline dispensary saw massive lines in recent days as both medical patients and recreational pot user stockpiled marijuana in anticipation of potential extended period of self-isolation.
The company did not say when they plan to re-open for adult-use sales, but expressed hope they could find a way to work with the new rules, which will run until at least April 6.
“Adult Use purchases are temporarily paused while we assess our operations and make adjustments to maintain [six feet of] social distance between our staff, patients and customer,” NETA leaders wrote.
“As you can imagine, this was a difficult decision that we did not take lightly,” their letter continued. “We are working to preserve access to cannabis for as many as possible during this uncertain time and hope to re-open for adult use customers in Brookline soon.”
The Boston Globe reported last summer that NETA’s Brookline store, which was the first recreational dispensary to open in the Greater Boston area, had effectively become the busiest pot shop on the East Coast — and likely among the busiest in the country — with an average of 2,500 customers a day. And while a handful of other Boston-area stores have since begun recreational sales, winding lines have remained a fixture outside the dispensary’s historic Brookline Bank building.
Last week, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission released a bulletin urging marijuana dispensaries to assess their procedures around hygiene, line management, and pre-orders. The CCC also asked them to consider reminding medical patients of the ability to acquire up to a 60-day supply (adult-use customers can purchase and posses to one ounce of marijuana flower, or it’s equivalent, at a time).
NETA leaders said Monday that their Northampton shop will remain open for both medical patients and adult use customers — but only through their online pre-order system.
And in the wake of the state’s new social distancing rules against dine-in restaurants and bars, a series of dispensaries in Massachusetts announced Monday they they were following suit with temporary bans on walk-in customers.
Beginning Tuesday, Garden Remedies says it will only allow pre-orders for both medical and adult-use customers at the company’s Newton and Marlborough locations. Theory Wellness also said it would do the same at its two hybrid dispensaries in Western Massachusetts beginning Tuesday, as did Cultivate in Leicester, one of the state’s first adult-use pot shops.
As the number of coronavirus cases in Massachusetts continues to rise, all of the dispensaries expressed uncertainty about how long the new policies would last.
“We promise to keep you updated, as this information may change in the coming days or weeks,” Cultivate officials said in an email to customers Monday evening.
Pure Oasis, which became the first recreational marijuana dispensary to open in the city of Boston last week, remained open for walk-in customers Monday, but was putting down markers to promote social distancing both inside and outside its Dorchester store. Amid the announcements by other dispensaries Monday afternoon, Pure Oasis trumpeted on Twitter that it had the “shortest wait times in the city, and you don’t have to worry about us not having supply!”