At a public hearing on August 23, the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) of Massachusetts approved provisional licenses for two testing facilities. This act moved the state a significant step closer to implementing adult use, which voters approved in 2016.

“We’re getting closer. We have to issue final licenses, obviously, to retailers and to the labs because nothing can be sold unless their products are tested by a lab licensed by us. We have to do the final inspections required to do that,” said Steven Hoffman, chair of the CCC, to the press. The two labs that received the provisional approval already analyze medical samples. They are MCR Labs and CDX Analytics.

The CCC is also processing 2,431 applications for growers, retailers, and others. While many of the applications are incomplete, the CCC staff has recommended some additional licenses, including to Alternative Therapies, a retailer; Cultivate Holdings, a product manufacturer; and Northeast Alternatives, a retailer. The CCC also listed the number of licenses that are complete by category: almost 40 cultivators, three microbusinesses, roughly 30 product manufacturers, three research facilities, and over 30 retailers. Five provisional licenses have been issued to cultivation facilities, some of which already grow for the state’s medical program. Sira Naturals is one such grower.

Resistance to implementation

Massachusetts missed a deadline in the implementation of its adult-use program, which was slated to begin on July 1. This delay follows a similar pattern established by the state’s medical program, which took three years to implement after voters approved an initiative in 2012. Reasons for the delays include resistance of municipalities, many of which have banned marijuana businesses or thrown up bureaucratic roadblocks. The state attorney general, Maura Healey, has been criticized by advocates for recently allowing municipalities to extend their bans, which were set to expire. Municipal bans and stonewalling has effectively slowed down implementation statewide.

According to a study conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, “approximately 21% of adults have used marijuana in the past 30 days.” The same study found that among the state’s medical marijuana patients, “On average, respondents spend at least $246.00 on marijuana each month.” The population of Massachusetts is 6.86 million. If recreational users spend about as much as medical users, approximately 1.3 million residents of Massachusetts could be spending almost $3,000 per year on marijuana. Tim Keogh, CEO of AmeriCann, a publicly traded company that develops cannabis cultivation facilities, has estimated that the Massachusetts market could amount to $1.8 billion. And according to the study, “Economic projections suggest that marijuana will increase Massachusetts’ state revenue by about $215.8 million in the first two years of retail sales.”

The study also addresses public health issues, noting: “Marijuana-related treatment is a small portion of the overall volume of substance use disorder treatment episodes. In a statewide-survey of Massachusetts, no respondents reported marijuana-related use of emergency room or urgent care facilities.” The study does not indicate that impaired driving has resulted in an increase in accidents in the state.

As the government of Massachusetts slowly implements its voter-approved adult-use program, one consolation for residents frustrated by the delay is that the businesses that do receive licenses have undergone a thorough review. As buyers turn from an illegal to a legal market, this vetting should offer some assurance of quality and safety.

What do you think? Will Massachusetts get its adult-use program going by the end of the year? Leave a comment below.

state marijuana laws