To help slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Baker has ordered businesses to suspend physical operations unless he deems them “essential.” Under his emergency orders, Governor Baker considers medical-marijuana treatment centers (MTCs) and liquor stores to be essential, but he considers adult-use marijuana establishments to be non-essential.
Plaintiffs, operators of adult-use marijuana establishments, sued in the BLS, seeking an injunction barring enforcement of Governor Baker’s orders against them. Plaintiffs argued that it was arbitrary to allow MTCs and liquor stores to remain open while requiring recreational marijuana shops to close. This distinction, according to Plaintiffs, violated constitutional equal protection guarantees.
Judge Salinger disagreed. To “pass constitutional muster,” Judge Salinger wrote, the classifications established by the Governor must have “a rational basis.” Applying this deferential standard of review, Judge Salinger denied Plaintiffs’ motion seeking injunctive relief. “It was reasonable for the Governor to be concerned that the relatively few adult-use marijuana establishments in Massachusetts are more likely than liquor stores or MTCs to attract high volumes of customers, including people travelling from other States,” Judge Salinger found. “The Governor’s decision to treat medical marijuana facilities and liquor stores differently than adult-use marijuana establishments,” Judge Salinger concluded, “has a rational basis and therefore is constitutional.”
The Business Litigation Session of the Massachusetts Superior Court: BLS-2
Docket Number: 2084CV00808-BLS2
Case Name: CommCan, Inc., et al. v. Charlie Baker
Date of Decision: April 16, 2020
Judge: Kenneth W. Salinger
- Senior Editor, Co-Chair, Business Litigation Practice Group