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Massachusetts Celebrates Legal Weed as Regulators Seek to Make Amends for Drug War

Cannabis connoisseurs embraced the inaugural Harvest Fest with a 100-foot-long joint, as state officials discussed how to sort out the “regulatory maze” of impending legalization.

by Chris Moore

As of last Friday, the first phase of Massachusetts' voter-approved legalization ballot measure went into effect, allowing adults to possess up to 10 ounces of weed at home, and one ounce on their person. Legal retail sales are expected to begin in July 2018, once state officials have established regulations for the legal market. To celebrate, weed enthusiasts, industry insiders, and cannabis advocates came out in force this past weekend at the inaugural Harvest Cup.

The two-day Harvest Cup, held at the DCU Center in Worcester, featured a trade-show exhibition of cannabis growers, vendors, and advocates, a competition offering awards in six categories, and a variety of speakers discussing everything from cannabis history and infused cooking to business advice. But the highlight of the show was a 100-foot-long joint rolled with 1,000 grams of weed. The mammoth joint required 40 people, 3,000 yards of rolling paper, and over a month of work, CBS Boston reports.

Peter Bernard, president of the Massachusetts Grower Advocacy Council, one of the event's sponsors, told The Telegram & Gazette that he was hoping to have "a little bit of celebration to bring this out of the shadows and let the average Joe know this is not just some room that stinks like patchouli and is filled with hippies. We're coming out of the 'pot closet,' so to speak." Sellers of cannabis products, including bongs, grow lights, and merch came out to the event to hawk their wares, and cannabis advocates and attorneys set up booths to offer their services, too.

"People are going to need legal services [due to the] regulatory maze that is still being developed as we speak," attorney George Richards said to MassLive. The state's Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) recently put the current draft of this "maze" of regulations up for public comment, after which they will be updated and made into law by March. In addition to regulations concerning cannabis cafes, home delivery, and research facilities, legislators are also working on regulations that would provide equal opportunities in the industry for the economically disadvantaged.

The CCC has created the framework for a priority review process for applicants from communities who have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs. In order to qualify for this priority review process, the applicant must meet two of the following criteria: the majority of the business owners have lived in a disproportionately-impacted community for five of the last ten years; the majority of owners have economic empowerment experience; the majority of employees reside in disproportionately-impacted communities, or that the majority of employees have prior drug-related convictions.

"If an applicant can show they meet the criteria the commission puts in place, the applicant will move ahead in line so hopefully they can open their doors sooner," Commissioner Shaleen Title said to the Worcester Business Journal. The CCC will meet in January to further expand the precise definition of "communities that have previously been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement," using arrest and economic data.

The commission also approved an equity program that would provide eligible applicants with fee waivers as well as technical assistance with taxes, employee training, accounting, and other issues related to starting up a business.


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Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.



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