Massachusetts Recreational Marijuana Rules Continue Taking Shape

Massachusetts Recreational Marijuana Rules Continue Taking Shape

Massachusetts recreational marijuana (the legal kind!) becomes reality in the summer of 2018. In the meantime, policy-makers are issuing mountains of rules. 

Residents of Massachusetts voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2012, but legal challenges and lawmakers’ hand-wringing over regulations delayed the opening of the Bay State’s first dispensaries until June of 2015. And while voters voters approved Massachusetts recreational marijuana last November, the regulatory groundwork needed to bring it to the marketplace could mean another wait for cannabis consumers.

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The passage of last November’s ballot question makes it legal for Massachusetts residents to buy or grow limited amounts of recreational pot. Where they will be able to buy or grow it, and how much they will be able to possess, has yet to be finalized, however.

While the state is supposed to issue the first Massachusetts recreational marijuana licenses by July of 2018, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission and the Marijuana Policy Committee still have considerable details to work out. Here are some of the rules the CCC has come up with so far:

  • Regulators have agreed on guidelines for when, where, and how people can use recreational cannabis in social settings and other establishments. The commission settled on two types of on-site consumption licenses, one for businesses like cannabis bars or cafes that derive more than 50 percent of their income from cannabis sales, and another for places like restaurants, movie theaters, or yoga studios that make smaller amounts of cannabis available to consumers.
  • Home delivery would be limited to $3,000 worth of cannabis, and would have to be done during a store’s normal operating hours. Buyers would have to show proof they were 21 or older, as well as sign for delivery.
  • In order to join a craft co-op, members must have been residents of Massachusetts for at least a year. While co-ops could brand and package cannabis products and deliver them to retailers, they couldn’t sell directly to consumers. The co-op would also have to organize as a limited liability company or similar business organization.

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  • Marijuana research facilities would be licensed under a special license category. They could cultivate or buy cannabis, but not sell it, and all testing must be done on humans age 21 or older and would have to be approved by an institutional review board.
  • Lawmakers want to provide opportunities in the legal marijuana industry to economically disadvantaged residents, especially those harshly affected by the so-called “war on drugs.” The commission has agreed to designate as yet undefined “areas of disproportionate impact,” and offer priority status to applicants for cannabis business licenses from those communities.

According to industry analysts, Massachusetts could see upwards of $1.7 billion in combined recreational and medical cannabis sales — as well as 17,400 full- and part-time cannabis industry jobs — in 2021. The state also projects state and local tax revenue of approximately $240 million for that fiscal year.

The commission is slated to vote soon on the above preliminary regulations. The regulations will then be subject to public hearings over the next few months. Any necessary revisions that result from those meetings would have to be made before any retailers would be allowed to open.

Stay tuned for updates.