Massachusetts parents in the market for legal recreational cannabis will have to leave their kids at home while making curbside pickups at dispensaries under guidelines clarified by state regulators on Thursday. The decision to ban individuals younger than 21 from cars making cannabis pickups comes despite the lack of a similar restriction for curbside alcohol sales at liquor stores and breweries in the state.
Cannabis dispensaries were barred from making sales of recreational marijuana for two months under an executive order issued in March by Gov. Charlie Baker that directed nonessential businesses to close to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Sales of recreational marijuana resumed last week with restrictions in place that require social distancing protocols and curbside pickup for most transactions.
But at a meeting of the state Cannabis Control Commission on Thursday, commissioners clarified that children and adults under 21 were not allowed to be in cars making curbside pickups at dispensaries. Commissioner Britte McBride said that state law forbids people younger than 21 from being on the premises of cannabis retailers and argued that vehicles used for pickup transactions are included in the restriction.
“It states really explicitly in the statute what our obligation is,” she said. “For me that’s the beginning and the end.”
Commissioner Jen Flanagan also opposed allowing children in vehicles making pickups at cannabis dispensaries and said that marijuana isn’t an essential supply.
“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.”
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Fellow commissioner Shaleen Title voiced the only dissenting opinion, arguing that the ban on kids was unfair for single parents and guardians who may have trouble making arrangements for childcare. She added that banning children from vehicles while schools and daycare centers are closed because of the pandemic prevents parents from accessing a legal product.
“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 childcare, 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 added that a temporary provision could be made that would allow children 12 and under in the back seat during curbside pickups. Older children, who can be safely left at home alone in most cases, would still be prohibited from vehicles during curbside pickups.
“These are extremely regulated stores,” she said. “It’s worth considering an exception.”
Flanagan, however, seemed unwilling to compromise.
“I don’t care if they’re four, 12, 20 — they shouldn’t be in that car,” she exclaimed. “It’s something that people just can’t do. … [Parents] are going to have to find a way.”