The saga of legal weed in Massachusetts continues dragging on. But this week, after lawmakers agreed on a basic regulatory framework, we’re seeing marijuana retail sales in Massachusetts closer than ever.
Approving Weed Regulations
Yesterday, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) reached what could be a key milestone. After many months of tedious debates and back and forth deliberation, the commission finally approved its final set of regulations.
This newest set of rules received unanimous support, and will now go through a final review by lawyers and the commission’s executive director.
This review won’t change any actual policies. Instead, it’s more of a formality to be sure the language in all documents is correct and error free.
From there, this new set of regulations will be officially filed with the Secretary of State. The CCC has until March 15 to file everything.
Yesterday’s approval came on the heels of a three-day debate last week in which lawmakers hashed out all sorts of fine-grained details.
In particular, the commission worked to address and incorporate feedback from Governor Charlie Baker and other key policymakers.
Now that the commission has approved the state’s regulatory frameworks, they can set their sights on the next key deadline.
The CCC is supposed to start accepting applications from cannabis business owners on April 1.
If the commission can make that happen on time, then it looks good for the state hitting its goal of rolling out retail weed sales on July 1.
Final Hit: Marijuana Retail Sales In Massachusetts Closer Than Ever
At this point, lawmakers and members of the CCC are optimistic that they can make the July 1 deadline.
“I think we have a lot of work to do in terms of building our staff and building our technology,” said CCC Chairman Steven Hoffman.
“But I think we have a good foundation based upon these regulations, so I am confident.”
He added: “Our intent is to have a go on July 1 and we are hitting all of the deadlines that we have in the legislation, so I’m feeling good about that.”
That’s the good news. But the bad news is that the state’s current laws and policies are very different from what voters originally approved in 2016.
The first dramatic change came shortly after the vote when the state legislature passed a bill to delay retail sales. That delay bumped it back to the current deadline of July 1, 2018.
Then in 2017, Gov. Baker signed another bill. This one raised taxes on weed and gave individual municipalities the option to add even more taxes on top of the increased state tax.
Finally, one of the big things concerning many cannabis advocates is the provision that gives local communities the power to ban weed businesses. By November 2017, 115 communities had already chosen to implement cannabis bans.
Clearly, a lot of questions remain. Similarly, there is still a lot of work that state and local lawmakers need to do before everything is ready for weed businesses to open shop.
But at the moment, it appears that the state’s basic legal framework for recreational weed is more or less established.