In our last update on recreational cannabis in Massachusetts, Medicine Man Technologies provided a look at changes state lawmakers made to Question 4, the voter-approved ballot measure that legalized adult-use cannabis during the November 2016 election.
A compromise bill, known as HB 3818, included tax hikes and the option for municipalities to ban sales. It was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker on July 28, 2017.
In addition, the scheduled date to start taking license applications for cannabis enterprises was pushed out to April 1st of this year with the earliest date for legal sales to commence targeted for July 1, 2018.
So, where is Massachusetts today?
Cannabis Licensing Rolls Out in Phases
With sales of recreational cannabis in Massachusetts set to begin in less than two months from now, the state is cutting it far too close for licensing to be granted and product to be grown, prepared and stocked. This will create a severe short-supply issue similar to what was seen in California, Nevada and other states.
Steven Hoffman, Cannabis Control Commission Chairman, is hopeful that the state’s current Registered Medical Dispensaries (RMD) will sell to retailers since these are the only enterprises that are cultivating legally at this point.
However, dispensaries are not required to sell, and the decision will be solely in their hands.
At this point, the Cannabis Control Commission has been flooded with applications from its first two phases and that trend is set to continue:
- On April 2nd, priority was given to existing medical dispensaries wanting to expand into adult use, as well as “economic empowerment applicants.” These included businesses owned by, that employ or benefit communities affected by unfairly high cannabis-related crime arrests.
- On May 1st, Massachusetts began taking applications from individuals and cannabis enterprises seeking licenses for cultivation, microbusiness, craft cooperatives, transport, independent testing labs and lab agents.
- On June 1st, phase three will open licensing to applicants for cannabis product manufacturers and retail.
According to Hoffman, “I think the supply issues are going to – and I hate this bad pun – but we’re going to grow out of them. People are going to get cultivation licenses. It’s going to take however many months it takes to grow plants. We’re going to get that resolved.”
Another Round of Changes is Made
In creating the infrastructure needed to regulate a system for recreational cannabis in Massachusetts, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission and Cannabis Advisory Board also made more changes:
- For now, delivery services and on-site, public cannabis use (such as cafes) will not be allowed. A set of regulations to manage these ventures should be rolled out in the coming year.
- Originally unlimited, regulators will restrict licensed growers to 100,000 square feet of canopy to help ensure that excess cannabis isn’t diverted to the black market.
- To ensure that medical cannabis patients do not face a medication shortage, dispensaries must earmark 35% of their inventory for these patients.
- At the point of sale, all cannabis products must be sold with a label utilizing an approved design that includes the wording, “contains THC” and “not safe for kids.”
- For individuals and enterprises looking to enter the market, Massachusetts will ban anyone with a felony conviction for drug trafficking – other than for cannabis.
Final Hurdle Needs to be Overcome
While July 1st will be a big day for cannabis in Massachusetts, residents will not be able to buy it in every municipality. As we mentioned, HB 3818 gave each area the ability to ban cannabis businesses, including cultivators and retailers.
According to the Attorney General’s office, 189 of the state’s 351 municipalities currently have a ban in place. Most of these were established to give local lawmakers time to pass their own regulations and will expire in time for cannabis businesses to commence operations.
However, there are 59 bans with no set end date which means they could become “dry municipalities” and force residents to travel for purchases.
At Medicine Man Technologies, we look forward to seeing recreational cannabis in Massachusetts finally launch this July. While the road ahead presents supply and demand challenges, legalization has been a well-deserved win for its supporters and the entire state.
It’s our hope that the municipalities with bans will see the many benefits and enable the industry to grow and thrive in their communities.
If you want to start a legal enterprise in Massachusetts or anywhere across the globe, please get in touch with us for private consulting, as well as help with licensing, cultivating, dispensary operations and more.