Massachusetts marijuana regulators OK state’s first recreational pot shops

October 4, 2018

Marijuana regulators in Massachusetts have awarded the state’s first licenses authorizing non-medical dispensaries to operate, putting a pair of retail pot shops on the path to open their doors nearly two years since voters cast ballots for recreational weed.

The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission on Thursday issued licenses for New England Treatment Access and Cultivate Holdings LLC to operate recreational dispensaries in Northampton and Leicester, respectively, where marijuana sales are permitted under a state law approved by more than 1.7 million voters in Nov. 2016.

Commissioners voted 4-0 to issue the two retail licenses while considering several marijuana-related permits, local media reported.

Massachusetts joined a group of seven states and counting to legalize recreational marijuana sales when aspects of the 2016 law permitting retail dispensaries took effect in July 2018, but more than three months later and nearly two years since the measure passed not a single applicant has been given the final go-ahead to open shop.

Similar recreational marijuana laws approved at the time in California and Nevada subsequently took effect in 2017 and 2018, respectively, and a major backer of the Massachusetts initiative said earlier this week that the state had missed out on as much as $16 million related taxes by failing to get its retail system off the ground as expected, The Boston Globe reported Monday.

“Due to delays in licensing, actual collections of marijuana tax revenues may be lower than originally projected,” Massachusetts Department of Revenue officials wrote in recent financial disclosures filing.

Neither of the marijuana companies awarded licenses Thursday will start retail sales immediately, however. Instead they will be subject to a final inspection and series of tests prior to legally selling recreational weed, delaying their opening for at least another two weeks, The Globe reported.

Thirty-one states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, including Massachusetts, notwithstanding the plant’s status as a federally barred controlled substance in the same category as heroin. Nine of those states have also legalized recreational weed, including seven that also passed laws permitting retail sales: Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions in January rolled back Obama-era policies advising federal prosecutors against pursuing marijuana cases in legal weed states, but President Trump has since indicated he would support legislation effectively restoring those protections.

The next meeting of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission is scheduled for Oct. 9.

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