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After nearly two years of bureaucratic stagnation and meticulous regulation, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission awarded its first two retail business licenses, moving the Bay State one step closer to debuting a fully functional recreational marijuana industry.
According to the Boston Globe, existing medical dispensaries Cultivate in Leicester and New England Treatment Access (NETA) in Northampton received final commission approval on Thursday, in a vote that local cannabis advocates are calling historic.
“We’re excited to get started,” Amanda Rositano, NETA’s director of operational compliance, told the Globe after Thursday’s meeting. “We’re really pleased to see we got the vote today… We’re doing everything that we can to prepare and meet demand.”
But even with a retail license in hand, both NETA and Cultivate will have to cross a few more t’s and dot a couple i’s before they can open their doors to tourists and other adult-use customers. Since Massachusetts’ cannabis regulations have arrived so slowly, the dispensaries must still perform a slew of tasks, from large scale endeavors like testing all of their pot products, entering every plant into the state’s seed-to-sale tracking system, and passing a Department of Public Health check, to more minor quality and safety assurances like employee badges and standardized packaging.
“I think we’re weeks away,” commission chairman Steve Hoffman said on Thursday. “I think it’s a big milestone, but it’s going to be a bigger one when the stores actually open.”
Over the summer, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission awarded a number of provisional marijuana business permits, but Thursday’s vote represented the Bay State’s first permanent licenses.
Despite recent cannabis freedom celebrations and significant advocacy in Boston, both Cultivate and NETA are located on the western half of Massachusetts, far from the Bay State’s heavily populated and tourist-friendly Eastern seaboard.
Hoffman and the other cannabis commissioners were unable to offer a firm retail sales start date estimate, especially after missing the state’s originally planned July 1st kick-off, but told reporters that they expected cannabis on shelves before the year is over.
“We’re being careful, we’re being thorough,” Hoffman told the Globe. “In the long term, this is going to be in the best interest, I believe, of the citizens of the state of Massachusetts.”
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