The stress, loneliness and boredom of the COVID-19 lockdown have not been as oppressive for the lucky people who live in the enlightened states (there are 11 of them) where recreational marijuana can be purchased legally.
Connecticut, of course, is not one of those states.
Our state legislators have repeatedly failed to muster the votes to pass such a law. They came closer last year, raising high hopes among many of us that this would finally be the year. But no, here came the virus, sending our lawmakers home prematurely with little or no debate on the merits of legalized weed.
Meanwhile, it’s no secret that more and more people are lighting up as a mellow, therapeutic way to get through the day and the night. Well, they’re doing so if they can get their hands on the stuff, if their state hasn’t set up roadblocks.
How do I know more and more of us are smoking marijuana? I read the papers, I watch the news. For instance, my own New Haven Register ran an Associated Press story on March 22, dateline California. This was the headline: “In California, home marijuana delivery surges amid outbreak.”
“The global coronavirus pandemic has left millions of people locked out of bars, restaurants and theaters,” AP reported, “but it’s been an unexpected boost for some U.S. pot shops.”
The story noted that in California, where recreational marijuana sales are legal, there’s a “buying binge.” People are “stocking up for quarantines or simply lighting up in search of relief during anxious times and government lockdowns.”
The progressive mayors of some cities with legal sales, such as Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, realized that even when many retailers needed to be shut down during the pandemic, pot stores should remain open because they provide an essential product. Garcetti deemed those stores essential because “they provide services that are recognized to be critical to the health of the city.”
That didn’t happen in Massachusetts, where the less enlightened Gov. Charlie Baker ordered recreational marijuana sales to be closed, effective March 24. And so for two solid months all of those consumers were out of luck, forced to rely on their stockpiles or go back to dealers on the black market. It also meant that weed users in neighboring states (hello Connecticut) were denied the opportunity to drive to Massachusetts to make purchases.
Baker finally saw the light (and the need for tax revenue) on Monday of this week. He announced that as part of the state’s phased reopening plan, recreational marijuana stores will be allowed to operate again, beginning May 25. This will be by curbside pick-up only. But that’s cool.
When he made his announcement Baker admitted he has no legal authority to tell out-of-state residents (hello us) that they can’t come to his fair state and buy marijuana. Previously he had cited out-of-state purchasers as the reason pot stores had to suspend recreational sales. Go figure.
During the Massachusetts lockdown of those outlets (medical marijuana sales continued) some of the pot shop owners sued Baker. They asserted he had no valid reason for allowing liquor stores to remain open to sell “essential” products while forbidding marijuana sales. There followed no swift imposition of justice by any court.
But those store owners had a point: why were consumers of beer, wine and hard liquor permitted to keep on merrily buying and drinking while pot smokers were iced out?
Back home, you might have noticed that as the New Haven Register reported April 28, “Alcohol sales spike in pandemic.” And so it’s perfectly fine for us to keep drinking to our heart’s content. Alcohol is “essential.”
During the past two months of the lockdown I’ve been rationing my dwindling supply of marijuana, which I obtained more than a year ago at a store in Northampton, Mass. But now, thanks to the legislators of the great state of Massachusetts and the new decree by its governor, I’ll be able to replenish. Road trip.
My two daughters, who live in Los Angeles, need not worry about such things. Get this: on Mother’s Day, while my wife and I were on a Zoom call with our kids, my younger daughter said her boyfriend had ordered some marijuana that morning. Less than two hours later the “Eaze” delivery person was at the door.
Maybe someday we’ll be able to do that in Connecticut. But I’m not holding my breath.
Contact Randall Beach at 203-865-8139 or firstname.lastname@example.org.