Massachusetts residents voted to legalize recreational weed in the fall of 2016. Almost two years later, Massachusetts still has no licensed marijuana retailers, which means consumers still can’t legally purchase cannabis. And after recent comments from state officials, it looks like Massachusetts residents will have to continue waiting.
More Delays For Massachusetts Marijuana
When voters in Massachusetts first approved legalization, the proposal they voted on stated that recreational marijuana sales would begin on January 1, 2018. That date came and went. And still, no recreational sales.
After the original timeline fell through, state officials bumped back the launch of recreational sales to July 1. Now it looks like the state won’t be ready for that target date either.
Yesterday, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission had a key meeting, and instead of announcing progress, they said that there would be more delays.
According to local news source Fox 25 Boston, the commission’s chairman Steven Hoffman said that rolling out recreational sales by July 1 was not a legal requirement, but rather an “arbitrary deadline.”
“We have said from the start that July 1 is not a legislative mandate,” Hoffman told reporters. “It’s our objective and we are going to try to meet that objective, but we are going to do it right.”
Several Obstacles Are Slowing Things Down
The Commission went on to outline several key obstacles slowing the state’s progress.
For starters, the Commission said that while tons of applications for marijuana businesses have been started, few of them have been fully completed.
More than 1,100 applications have been started, but only 53 are completed and ready to be reviewed. Of those 53 applications, 17 were for retail shops. Another 17 were for growing operations.
Similarly, background checks are presenting problems. The state is using a third-party contractor to conduct background checks on potential marijuana business owners and workers. Reportedly, a large number of background checks have yet to be completed.
Additionally, there are delays at the local level. Experts report that many municipalities still haven’t completed the necessary work for businesses to open shop.
Finally, many cities in Massachusetts have chosen to ban marijuana shops. Others are imposing strict limits on where shops can operate, further slowing down the process.
When Will Massachusetts Have a Marijuana Market?
So what does all this mean for Massachusetts residents? They probably shouldn’t look forward to enjoying legal weed this summer.
It’s unclear exactly when legalization will be fully up and running in the state. Delays are expected to push the timeline back at least another couple of months.
Even then, members of the Cannabis Control Commission have indicated that it will not be granting a large number of licenses. In fact, one authority said the first wave of legal retail shops would be “sparse” in number.
Massachusetts authorities hope that taking a slower approach will help the state avoid problems. Some states that have managed to launch retail programs relatively quickly have had difficulties. Nevada faced unexpected shortages of cannabis and cannabis products. And California reportedly had a large number of businesses continuing to operate illegally, even after recreational sales began.