You should know without us whining, especially if you’re a frequent DigBoston reader, that the roll out of recreational cannabis in Mass—much like the introduction of medical marijuana before it—has left much to be desired. From lawmakers running interference on the tax and safety fronts, to delays on delivery and social consumption licenses, some would argue that this all could have been done in a much simpler and faster fashion.
Nonetheless, as the state’s Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) concluded its policy discussions on draft regulations last week (and is meeting twice this week—on Tuesday, to review and discuss the final regulations, and again on Wednesday for the same purpose), we are inching closer toward a recreational cannabis marketplace in Mass with each passing day. As for what that means… at this purgatorial juncture, well, a few things.
Most importantly, there are fairly concrete changes and additions to the regs in place. Nothing is in stone just yet, but there is certainly enough language in play to get a sense of how things will look. For example:
- Cultivation: There will be “a cultivation cap of 100,000 sq. ft. of canopy per licensee, including craft marijuana cooperatives.” Also, the CCC “agreed to reduce the cultivation annual license and application fees for outdoor cultivation by 50%.”
- Secret Shopper Program: “To strengthen compliance measures, [CCC members] agreed to broaden the scope of the previously authorized Secret Shopper Program by explicitly permitting underage identification card checks.”
- Energy/Environmental Standards: The CCC “agreed to set energy efficiency standards for indoor cultivation as recommended by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs,” and “agreed to require license renewal applicants to submit documentation, such as a utility bill, that identifies energy and water use.”
- Vendor Training: “Starting July 1, 2019, Marijuana Establishments will send the [CCC] certification that agents have completed a Responsible Vendor Training program provided by a third-party that is accredited by the Commission.”
As you may have read in cannabis headlines statewide this past week, the biggest news has been around the aforementioned delivery and social consumption licenses. As John Basile of Wicked Local succinctly summarized:
The five-member commission voted 4-1 to launch a legal retail marijuana industry on July 1 without licensing delivery services or establishments where people could use marijuana socially, aspects of a new industry that were contemplated in the 2016 ballot law and authorized under the state’s legal marijuana laws.
The commission also agreed that if or when it authorizes delivery and social consumption licenses it will also grant the exclusive rights to those licenses to small businesses, businesses in the CCC’s social equity program, craft cooperatives and certain farmers for a period of time in order to mitigate the effects of the delay in licensing.
In other news, the CCC is in the market for a vendor who can vet all of the applicants who will be lining up for those said licenses to operate a recreational cannabis business, whether on the cultivation, transport, manufacture, processing, distribution, testing, or sales sides of the industry. From the state’s solicitation of services:
It is the objective of the Commission to identify and then engage a consultant for implementation of an investigative program to conduct suitability inquiries of potential Marijuana Establishment agents, licensees, executives and employees. The purpose of the inquiries is to draw to the attention of the Commission any matter which may adversely reflect upon the suitability of the applicant or registrant to obtain, hold or renew a license or registration.
At the time of this writing, the CCC is slated to have final regs done by March 15. From there, so long as there’s no meddling by the executive branch, or even if there is, the commission is expected to begin accepting applications on April 1. It’s unclear who will vet those applications until the contract noted above is fulfilled, but considering the rate at which they’ve moved so far, it’s likely that will be in place soon as well. Or not.
“It’s difficult to generate a workable system with so much pressure from former [cannabis] opponents to apply the brakes,” said Keith Saunders, a longtime Mass cannabis advocate and member of NORML’s national board of directors. “They delayed the process for six months and still claimed they needed more time. Meanwhile, the unregulated cannabis market in Massachusetts is moving along smoothly. The point of [Question 4] was to bring that unregulated market under regulations, but Charlie Baker and the million-dollar lobbyists would rather a hybrid, where medicinal licensees hold a monopoly on distribution, production, and processing—all in the name of what?”