HEY MASSACHUSETTS! WHAT’S THE RECREATIONAL CANNABIS HOLD-UP?
Almost two months ago, on July 1st, Massachusetts was given the legal go-ahead to sell recreational cannabis. But if you try walking into a local dispensary to pick up the latest and greatest in MA legal pot, you’ll come out empty-handed. So, what’s the hold-up?
As always, we just love wading our way through the details in order to lay things out as simply as possible, and we’ve discovered that the problems are threefold…
Under the new state law, recreational cannabis can only be legally sold if it has been appropriately tested for contaminants. Tests can only take place in an independent testing lab that has been officially approved by the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). Even though the CCC has actually now semi-approved two testing labs in Massachusetts – CDX Analytics, of Salem, and MCR Labs, of Framingham – it’s now down to the labs to invite the CCC for a final inspection. Until those final inspections take place, the CCC won’t issue the final recreational license. No final license, no testing. No testing, no legal recreational cannabis sales in Massachusetts.
With 112 license applications being reviewed by the commission at present, the CCC seems to be insinuating that the hold-up is being caused by the testing labs. At the same time, a number of testing labs, hoping to receive a recreational license, have laid down their concerns about the fees involved and have accused the CCC of slowing the entire process down with unclear guidance on the testing requirements of recreational cannabis.
A range of delays down at the local level are also proving to be pretty challenging. Before applying for a recreational state license, distributors, dispensary owners, growers, and manufacturers must first successfully apply for a special town/city permit.
The problem is that they can’t apply for these local permits until the municipality has officially outlined its zoning regulations. And guess what? Most towns and cities across the state are still waiting for their respective municipalities to establish the zoning regulations. No zoning regulations, no special permit. No special permit, no recreational state licenses.
Take Sira Naturals, for example. Even though they’re the proud owners of Massachusetts’ first recreational cultivation license, sales are at a complete standstill. Why? Because recreational zoning regulations in Somerville and Cambridge, where the company’s medicinal cannabis dispensaries are located, are yet to be determined.
On a positive note, however, there’s hope that Sira Naturals won’t be the only license holder for long. There are six other companies in receipt of no less than seven provisional licenses for recreational cannabis sales in Massachusetts to date. These companies are Cultivate; Alternative Therapies Group, which was, incidentally, the first dispensary to sell medicinal cannabis in Massachusetts in way back 2015; New England Treatment Access, with two locations in Brookline and Northampton; Pharmacannis Massachusetts, with hopes for launching recreational cannabis sales at the beginning of October; INSA, located in Easthampton; and M3 Ventures, which hopes to be fully operational in a couple of months.
Then there’s the fear of local level moratoriums. Imagine Massachusetts starts laying down the zoning regulations and that a number of testing labs are officially authorized to operate, MA cultivators and manufacturers would still be at risk of a local level moratorium. Attorney General Maura Healey decided it would be a good idea to give municipalities in Massachusetts the power to exercise moratoriums at will. Who knows how many towns and cities will be further slowed down by local protest.
So, as always, red tape is responsible for the delay. But hang on in there, Massachusetts! What might seem like a long, hard slug at the moment, will definitely be worth it in the end.
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