434 adult-use and 98 medical-use licensees, 30,000-plus registered agents, 1,155 cannabis businesses, and counting …
It’s not too often that we recognize the anniversaries of regulatory commissions. Or any government agencies for that matter. There have certainly been commissions and bodies set up over the past half-decade that have flown above or below our radar, but not the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). Needless to say, they’re different.
For a lot of people, the idea of recreational cannabis was merely an abstraction, if not a distraction to the illicit and/or medical markets they had come to accept. Which is understandable; after all, it’s a plant, and obviously shouldn’t be regulated at all. But since we were never going to have a wild west type of scenario with dispensaries set up like flower shops at any significant scale, what we got instead, like all states with rec programs, is an all-powerful overseeing bean-counting body. With an imperfect but thankfully loose law to build and improve on. Which they have. Significantly, with more to come as we move into new realms with services and stylish consumption situations no one could have even imagined when the laws were first drafted.
There’s no reason to go overboard on the praise; the truth is, the CCC has done its job, and hardly with one eye looking back toward prohibition as seemed may have been a danger in 2018, when the body tapped advisory board members who had campaigned against legal weed. It’s also worth noting that their job has been difficult; while the bane of every operator’s existence is waiting for the CCC to visit their facility or advance them to the next stage of some process or another, there’s no denying that commissioners and their supporting staffers have had their hands full. Here’s an overview from a public letter recognizing their fifth anniversary of a “safe, equitable, and effective regulated industry” …
Since Massachusetts’ first two Marijuana Retailers opened in 2018, 235 more have received notices from the Commission to commence operations statewide and are in the process of opening. Another 166 Marijuana Retailers with provisional or final license approval are completing the Commission’s inspection and compliance procedures towards that end. In total, the Commission has licensed 1,155 Marijuana Establishments, including Cultivators, Product Manufacturers, Retailers, Independent Testing Laboratories, Microbusinesses, Marijuana Couriers, and more.
In addition to regulating the adult-use cannabis industry, the Commission has overseen the Medical Use of Marijuana Program (Program) since it was transferred from the Department of Public Health in December of 2018 as required under Chapter 55 of the Acts of 2017. The Program has grown from approximately 58,000 patients to almost 100,000 patients, as the agency has implemented several enhancements since assuming Program oversight.
That’s a lot of licenses. According to the CCC, “the agency now has nearly 90 employees and a new slate of Commissioners, including the September 1 appointment of Chair Shannon O’Brien, with 434 adult-use and 98 medical-use licensees operating across the Commonwealth and over 30,000 registered agents working in the regulated industry.”
“I am incredibly proud of our Commissioners and staff, past and present, whose contributions over the last five years have created the agency you see today. We accomplished building a brand-new agency while at the same time regulating a marketplace that is not new to Massachusetts but is safer and more effective thanks to our collective efforts,” Executive Director Shawn Collins said in a statement. “We have made great strides towards our equity mission as an agency and industry, but we all acknowledge there is more to do. We are not intimidated by the challenging and important work that remains, and I look forward to seeing the progress we achieve in the next five years.”
I encourage anybody involved in the industry as well as consumers to read the entire CCC letter, which of course also includes the remarkable amount of cannabis that we as a state have consumed, from first surpassing $1 billion in gross sales in 2020 to crossing the $3 billion mark in May 2022.
And if you take issue with anything the commission has done or plans to do, be sure to contact a member and testify the next time there’s an opportunity. The main reason they’ve succeeded to this degree so far is because the agency has responded to stakeholder input, so I encourage people to keep speaking up for the next five years and forever after.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.