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Cannabis Commerce in Massachusetts Inches Closer to Reality

Boston Massachusetts

On July 1st, when Vermont officially legalized personal cannabis possession and cultivation, but not any marijuana sales, Massachusetts’ legalization law called for the state to permit cannabis commerce. Unfortunately for consumers, there aren’t any retail stores up and operating, but good news is on the horizon as Bay State regulators did issue the very first provisional retail license.

Rolling Stone reported:

Massachusetts voters legalized recreational marijuana on November 8th, 2016. But in the 600 or so days since, a cautious bureaucracy and hesitant local communities have slowed the advent of recreational marijuana dispensaries. July 1st was the first day licensed stores could sell marijuana, but the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) – the body that regulates weed in the state – has not yet issued any licenses to retail outlets.

On Monday, the regulators finally approved the first recreational retail license in the state for a dispensary in the central Massachusetts town of Leicester. However, it will still be some time before it opens: Regulators need to approve a laboratory to test recreational marijuana before dispensaries can begin sales and all approved dispensaries are subject to inspections before they can welcome customers.

Since legislation only stipulated when marijuana sales could begin – not when they had to begin – no deadline was missed, CCC chairman Steven Hoffman tells Rolling Stone, adding that the commission is working effectively to get licensing done right the first time. “There is no legislative mandate for a start date for this industry: It’s do it right, to do it right for the long term. And that’s exactly what’s happening,” he says.

As noted, as of July 1st, Massachusetts officials should be licensing many more businesses within the next three months:

As of Monday, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission was considering 63 license applications that included all four of the required packets of information – an application of intent, a background check, a management and operations profile and payment of the application fee, the commission said.

That means many applicants intent on getting licensed to operate a recreational  marijuana business so far have submitted applications with less than the four required packets.

The commission has received a total of 1,694 applications: 1,453 are incomplete; 151 are pending, meaning they contain at least one of the required packets; 89 have been withdrawn; and one license has been issued provisionally, the commission said.

The commission has 90 days to issue a provisional license or deny an application.

The rollout of cannabis commerce must be excruciatingly slow for Massachusetts cannabis companies and consumers, but I would urge all to try their best to be as patient as possible. Massachusetts was the first state to select a longtime cannabis legalization activist (Shaleen Title) to be the head regulator and establish an equity program designed to give priority to applicants that show they will financially empower communities harmed by prohibition and assist people from those communities open up cannabis businesses.

Each state that legalizes cannabis has the opportunity to positively impact other states, particularly nearby neighbours. Massachusetts’ system may influence New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Delaware, and other New England states on the verge of ending cannabis prohibition. While the Bay State cannabis community is certainly anxious for sales to begin, I hope that folks can take a moment to appreciate the freedom they enjoy over most U.S. residents, and take comfort in knowing that more jobs and revenue will soon follow.

Stay up-to-date on the latest developments around the U.S. and the world at the upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference in Portland, Oregon, this September 27th-28th. Be sure to get your tickets by September 12th to save $200 and ensure that you have a spot reserved before the event sells out!


cannabis commerce, Cannabis Control Commission, Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, Shaleen Title, Steven Hoffman