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Massachusetts Cannabis Regulators Eye July 1st Sales Start, But Further Delays Still Looming

Bay State Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman is hopeful the industry will be up and running this summer, but he’s quick to note the July start date isn’t final.

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More than a year after Massachusetts residents voted to legalize the sale and use of recreational cannabis, the state is making significant steps forward towards a regulated industry, with licensed cultivators, retail sales, and anticipated millions in tax dollars. But as state officials continue to sort out comprehensive rules for legal weed, Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman is still hedging his bets, leaving the door open for even further delays.

In a new interview with Boston CBS affiliate WBZ, Hoffman expressed confidence that the regulation and licensing process would go smoothly, but also said that the office’s July 1st sales start goal is still only a loose goal, and not a promise.

“If our technology’s in place and our staff is in place and it’s trained, we’ll be ready to go, but unless those things are in place we will not,” Hoffman told WBZ. “If we’re not ready, it will slide,” he says. “It’s more important to do this right than to do it on time, although right now we think we can do both.”

As the Commission’s plans stand currently, the state will begin accepting cannabusiness applications in June, with the assumption that businesses will be able to get up and running within a month to begin serving residents and tourists before the Fourth of July weekend.

“April 1 is the first day we can start reviewing applications. June 1 is the first day we can start accepting applications. And then July 1 — which is not a legislative mandate, it is just the expectation that we have and the target that we are committed to — July 1 is the first day people can open for business,” Hoffman told WBZ.

With only a one-month window between licensing and an expected sales start, it would appear that Massachusetts’ already-established medical cannabusinesses will have a first crack at the adult-use industry.

In the meantime, Bay State cannabis users aren’t waiting for the government to catch up, with legally grey “gift economy” providers already using a loophole in state law to keep stoners satiated before regulations are implemented.

Because giving cannabis as a gift is legal, Massachusetts businesses have sprung up selling basic goods (such as juice, cookies, and club cover charges) for an exorbitant price, but accompanied with a “free” gift of weed. So instead of buying an eighth for $50, Bostonians can order a $50 fresh pressed juice, that just so happens to come with an “extra” herbal gift weighing in at 3.5 grams.

Those gift economy businesses have sprung up in legal weed states across the country where cannabis regulations have lagged behind legislation, and in Washington D.C., where cannabis is legal but retail sales are strictly forbidden, those grey area gifters have become the city’s most visible distributors.

Back in Massachusetts, cannabis officials are trying their hardest to reach their July 1st goal not only to implement the will of their constituents, but also to disincentivize those gift economy and black market purveyors. However they’ll first need to actually finalize rules and regulations for legal sales.

Starting today, Massachusetts regulators will host the first of 10 public hearings across the state, giving local residents a chance to discuss and debate the state’s proposed regulations before they are sent to a legislative vote. A schedule of those public hearings can be found here.