Massachusetts Recreational Marijuana Retail Delayed Again

Will Massachusetts ever start their recreational marijuana retail?
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Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance

Retail sales of cannabis will not begin in Massachusetts on July 1 as planned, it was announced this week. Steven Hoffman, chairman of the state’s Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), told local media that regulators have not yet licensed an independent testing laboratory for recreational marijuana. He said the CCC has not received any completed applications for a testing lab and so far only one applicant has begun the process.

“We do have one lab application that’s in the queue,” Hoffman said. “We’ve talked to the labs, the four operators of the medical marijuana labs, and our expectation, I don’t have timing, but our expectation is that they’ll all apply,” Hoffman told reporters Tuesday.

To help expedite the process, Commissioner Britte McBride said the CCC voted unanimously to permit staff to review out of order any completed applications for independent testing labs submitted by August 1, “purely for the purposes of being able to get the independent testing labs to the front of the queue so that we can start to establish a supply chain that is consistent with the statute.”

Regulators Now Reviewing Applications

The CCC began accepting applications for cannabis business licenses on June 1 and had hoped to authorize the beginning of retail sales by July 1. But so far only one license, for a cultivator, has been issued. Hoffman apologized for the delay, but also noted that the July 1 date was a target of the CCC, not a requirement of Massachusetts’ recreational cannabis law.

“I understand those expectations and I’m sorry that people have expectations that were not met, I am truly sorry about that. That being said, our objective is to satisfy the will of the voters of the state of Massachusetts to build a fair and safe and equitable industry. We are doing so. There is nothing in the law that says it has to be July 1,” he said. “Again, I’m sorry people’s expectations were not met. On the other hand, I hope that people understand that we’re trying to build this industry consistent with the law and consistent with the will of the voters and we are committed to making that happen.”

The CCC currently has 61 applications for cannabis businesses from 31 applicants. Each application must be reviewed by the CCC, which must also conduct a background checkon the applicant. There is also a 60-day time period for local jurisdictions to verify that their regulations have been met by the applicants. Hoffman said that he expects the commission to approve additional license applications at its next meeting on July 1.

No New Predictions for Retail Rollout

When he was asked to predict when retail sales would begin in Massachusetts, Hoffman declined.

“I have resisted making a forecast and I will continue to resist making a forecast. We are going to issue licenses on an ongoing basis, they have to become final licenses, we have to get city and town approval; there are too many moving parts so I’m not making a forecast,” he said.

Hoffman added the lack of testing labs is “another reason why I’m just not making a forecast about timing, it’s another one of the moving parts that has to come together.”

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