Marijuana dispensaries adjusting to business amid COVID-19 pandemic

On the list of "essential services" in Massachusetts, you will find medical marijuana dispensaries.

BROOKLINE, Mass. — On the list of “essential services” in Massachusetts, you will find medical marijuana dispensaries. Recreational shops remain closed. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry is adjusting and focusing on patient needs during the outbreak.

Dispensaries that serve medical patients are considered essential and they’ve had to change the way they do business overnight.

“The reality of the situation is traffic in our stores is down close to 90%,” said Amanda Rositano the President of New England Treatment Access, also known as ‘NETA.’

Content Continues Below

It’s uncharted territory inside an industry that’s already uncharted territory for state and local government.

Pot shops like NETA reacted quickly to social distancing guidelines put out by the Cannabis Control Commission last month.

‘’We right away moved toward a reserve-ahead-only model, which required customers to place their order in advance of their pick-up and only come to get that order once it’s ready for them,” Rositano said. “and that really minimizes that transaction time to just a minute or two in the store.”

The commission is allowing for curbside pickup and delivery, which NETA is rolling out in their Northampton facility in the coming days.

Cannabis Control Commission Chair Steve Hoffman told Boston 25 News that they’re allowing adults who want to get certified as medical marijuana patients to use telehealth services.

“Our sole focus is, given the governor has deemed this an essential industry, to help it operate as safely as possible,” Hoffman said.

“Patients certainly need access to doctors to continue to get the medicine that they need,” Rositano added. “I think this is incredibly important, at a time where access to adult-use has been restricted, to really make sure there are the right options for patients to get certified.”

Rositano said that she wants to see recreational adult-use open back up under the same safety measures as medical to help those suffering from heightened anxiety during the pandemic.

“It is totally the governor’s decision if and when he will allow the adult-use industry to reopen,” Hoffman said. “I will say that if and when he does, I hope we’ve shown with the way we’ve managed the medial side of the industry that we can ensure that it will operate with equal concern.”

But a drop in-store traffic has meant NETA needed to get creative to keep staff on the payroll. Production started Wednesday at their Franklin facility to make hand sanitizer.

“We worked with the Department of Public Health and the hospital association on this initiative to provide guidance to produce hand sanitizer, to work with MEMA and the hospitals to make sure that it gets to facilities in need, and at this point, we are donating that product,” Rositano said.

“My wife is a physician, so I personally appreciate anyone who’s trying to help provide personal protective equipment to the medical communities,” Hoffman added.

NETA said that while they will wait to see if adult use will be allowed, they are on track to produce 1,000 gallons of hand sanitizer per week.