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Massachusetts Cannabis Market Opens Not With a Bang But a Whimper

By Rick Schettino
Jul 09, 2018

Massachusetts officially began recreational marijuana sales on July 1. But there were no consumers lined up outside pot shops waiting to be the first to purchase recreational cannabis products legally. In fact, not a single joint was sold by licensed recreational cannabis retailers in the state. The reason was that not a single retailer was licensed in time for the launch.

According to a report in The Boston Globe, Massachusetts’ Cannabis Commission awarded a provisional retail license to Cultivate Holdings of Leicester, Massachusetts. However, before the company can begin selling legally, it must first pass inspection and fingerprint its staff. President of Cultivate, Sam Barber, told reporters on Monday that he expects to begin legally selling cannabis goods “in the next few weeks.”

Meanwhile, Sira Naturals of Milford also received licenses to grow and distribute recreational marijuana. And Shaleen Title, a member of the cannabis commission, wrote on Twitter that “more licenses are coming” and claims, “we are moving super fast. Our staff goes nonstop.”

Bottlenecks In The Process

President of the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council, Kamani Jefferson claims that the bottlenecks in the application vetting process are happening at the local level. Under the state’s recreational program, zoning boards and town councils have the right to approve dispensary site plans. “The state is doing the best they can do with the resources they have. It comes down to the local level —they have most of the power in the situation.”

According to Jefferson, hundreds of cannabis retailers will be needed to meet demand in the state. The Boston Globe looked at data released by the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. Their report claims that 32 companies or individuals filed 63 recreational license applications. After submitting a public record request, the paper gathered a list of applications submitted to the commission for the cultivation, processing, or retail of recreational cannabis

According to the commission, some of the applications are missing information and will need to be resubmitted. Also, all applicants must not only pass a long list of regulatory requirements and state inspections but also have to have written approval from the municipality in which it plans to operate.

There are a total of seven unique types of licenses available in Massachusetts: cultivation, retail, transporting, manufacturing, researchers, laboratories, and microbusiness — small, locally-owned cultivators and manufacturers.

Under the law, groups of smaller-scale farmers are allowed to market their products under a single brand name.

What Can Residents Do In the Meantime?

Just because there are no legal retailers that doesn’t mean that the state’s stoners are dry. The possession of weed has already been legal in the state since December of 2016. Residents 21 years and older are allowed to grow their own, to carry to an ounce on their person, and can gift small quantities to friends. Some sellers used the gifting loophole to give away “free” cannabis while accepting “donations.”

Residents are allowed to possess up to ten ounces in their home, but anything over an ounce must be locked up. Failure to do so can result in a $100 fine and confiscation of the weed in question. And smoking in public places is prohibited.

Two other New England states, Vermont and Maine, also allow the possession of marijuana by adults, and neither of those states has a functioning regulated market either. That means that anyone who wants to use cannabis while waiting for licensed retailers must either grow their own or purchase it on the black market. When sales begin in Massachusetts, many expect the prices to be higher than those available on the black market due to substantial local taxes.

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