Photo via Cultivate
Recreational cannabis sales were supposed to begin in Massachusetts this past weekend, but residents looking to buy some legal weed were out of luck. As of July 1st, the announced start date for adult-use marijuana sales, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) had only licensed one recreational pot cultivator to start growing plants. In order to get the state's regulated retail market rolling, the CCC still needs to license a testing facility as well as retail stores themselves, and the commission's delays in accomplishing these tasks set off a wave of concern that legal weed might not be on sale until next year.
This week, things are looking brighter for Bay State stoners. During a meeting on Monday, the CCC granted the state's first retail cannabis license to Cultivate Holdings, which already operates a medical marijuana dispensary in the town of Leicester. Unlike soley recreational canna-businesses, which must wait until they receive their license before they can begin growing weed, Cultivate already grows, processes, and sells medical cannabis. Because of this advantage, the company said that it will be ready to begin selling recreational pot as soon as the CCC approves its final license, which could happen in a matter of weeks.
“I feel like we're ready. Our team has been working very hard and I'm hopeful in the next few weeks," Sam Barber, president of Cultivate, told State House News Service. "We're lucky, we have everything at our facility; we grow, we process...in terms of having the ability to do it, we're ready to go." Cultivate currently has a recreational cultivation license pending approval, but until this is granted they will be sourcing their initial inventory elsewhere. At the meeting, the CCC also approved a transportation license for Sira Naturals, the state's first recreational cultivation licensee. This permit makes it legal for the company to transport its products to retail stores when they open.
Although Cultivate may be ready to go, the state must still approve a testing facility before sales can officially begin. CCC Chairman Steve Hoffman said that he expects that the testing issue “will be resolved in time,” and that Cultivate could receive their final license in a matter of weeks if they are truly ready. "It's primarily on his table, which is how quickly can he tell us that he's met all the conditions and is ready for an inspection," Hoffman explained to State House News Service. "I will say, as soon as he tells us that, we'll be able to inspect very quickly. So I think the timetable really is at his control. I hope he's right."
Although many members of the state's cannabis industry have criticized the state for failing to get the retail market sorted by the deadline, Gov. Charlie Baker has said that the CCC has done a “great job” in getting the ball rolling. "The Cannabis Commission has had a very difficult job to basically create something that didn't exist," said Baker, according to MassLive. "Overall, they've done the job quite well. It's very clear that you only get one shot to roll this out, and it's very hard to change if you don't do what you think you should have done the first time."
Hoffman called the vote to approve the first retail license a “milestone,” but added that “every day is a milestone because everything we're doing, we're making this work," the Boston Herald reports. "It's going to work for the state, work for its citizens, and work for public health and public safety. We're making progress. So yes, I think it's a big day, but one of many big days, and we have a lot more big days ahead of us. No rest for the weary."
CCC Commissioner Shaleen Title agreed with Hoffman's sentiment, tweeting that “there are so, so many steps state law requires us to take, lots of which require action from third parties. Those of [us] who lived through 2014 know the fear of REAL delay if there’s a screwup or a scandal. But we’re moving forward steady and fast. Even by non-gov standards.” Title also added: “It’s hilarious and I honestly love it when I see rando clueless anchorpeople who were stigmatizing cannabis pre-2016, and probably never saw a nug in their life, like “Enough - we want stores open NOW!” Hey right on, so do I!”