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Massachusetts’ First Recreational Pot Sales Could Be Days Away




Massachusetts’ First Recreational Pot Sales Could Be Days Away

More than two months after recreational marijuana sales became legal in Massachusetts, the first wave of retailers is still working to open to the public.

But the first sales could happen soon.

Eleven potential marijuana shops are awaiting site inspections, the last step before they can seek final approval of their business license applications from the Cannabis Control Commission, Massachusetts’ marijuana authority.

The soonest a marijuana shop may get its final business license is Sept 20, at the next public meeting of the commission. The body will vote on applications of any businesses that have already completed physical site inspections and staff fingerprinting.

The commission says it has begun scheduling some inspections. Dick Evans, a Massachusetts attorney who’s long pushed for the legalization of marijuana, said he thinks some retailers will line those up in time to get final approvals on Sept. 20.

“I think that’s realistic,” Evans said. “We expected to see them (approved) in August. Of course, there’s always complications. I think we shouldn’t fret the delay too much because we’ve been waiting for several decades, and we can wait a few weeks more.”

After this month’s meeting, the next for businesses to seek final approval from the commission will be Oct. 4.

Here’s what you need to know while you wait:

Where Can I Buy Adult-Use Marijuana?

The nearest shop to Connecticut could open about half an hour from the state border.

Cultivate, a medical marijuana dispensary in Leicester, was also the first retailer to receive a provisional license from the commission in early July.

In central Massachusetts, businesses are also hoping to locate in Northampton and Easthampton. The rest of the potential shop locations would be a hike from Connecticut: Amesbury, Brookline and Salem around Boston, Fall River, Wareham and Plymouth on the coast, and Greenfield and Lowell up north.

But the list of potential marijuana businesses is long.

As of Sept. 6, there were more than 2,550 license applications started in Massachusetts to grow, transport, test, produce or sell adult-use marijuana or marijuana products, according to the commission.

Of those, 125 applicants have submitted all of their required paperwork, including 38 that are seeking retail licenses, the commission says.

Why The Slow Rollout?

An advocacy group for Massachusetts marijuana growers says local approvals have caused longer-than-expected delays for sellers.

Shops must reach an agreement with their local municipality before their business license applications will be considered by Massachusetts. And local zoning boards and town councils must approve site plans for dispensaries within their municipal limits.

The state plans to levy a 6.25 percent sales tax and 10.75 percent excise tax, and leave to the discretion of municipal officials an option to levy a local tax of up to 3 percent.

But the Massachusetts Grower Advocacy Council argues that some towns are using the agreement process to demand more than the legal cap on local businesses’ gross sales.

Peter Bernard, president of the council, said his organization plans to sue to compel the Cannabis Control Commission to review agreements between marijuana shops and their towns.

“It’s not a question of if, it’s a matter of when,” he said.

He added, though, that most of the delays were to be expected. Potential marijuana businesses, local governments and the commission have to follow a highly complicated process, Bernard said.

“If we have more than three or four places (for recreational marijuana sales) open by Thanksgiving, I’ll be surprised,” he said. “But I don’t think (the commission’s) dragging their feet. It’s just such an arduous process.”

Can A Business Open Immediately After Getting A Final Business License?

Yes, assuming the shop has met all other requirements, like paying its business license fee.

There is also an additional requirement for existing medical dispensaries adding recreational marijuana sales at the same location.

They must get a waiver from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health allowing them to divert some of their plant inventory to recreational marijuana.

Who Can Buy Recreational Pot In Massachusetts?

Anyone over 21 can buy marijuana for adult use after showing proof of age.

But to enter a medical dispensary, you must have a medical marijuana card from Massachusetts.

Can I Bring Nonmedical Cannabis From Massachusetts Into Connecticut?

No. Connecticut’s state police, who patrol the highways, have said they will continue to monitor for marijuana use with DUI checkpoints and stops.

What Can I Smoke In Massachusetts, And Where Can I Smoke It?

You can legally possess and grow nonmedical marijuana. You can also give it away, as long as you receive no money or services in exchange. If you’re 21 or older, you can carry up to an ounce of marijuana in the state, although no more than five grams can be in concentrate form.

You cannot smoke marijuana in public places, and a police officer can give you a citation for smoking in your car.

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Automatic Weapons to host November CannaMaps Giveaway!

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Will mega marijuana deal get approval in New York?




Will mega marijuana deal get approval in New York?

ALBANY — The planned merger of two of the nation’s largest cannabis companies is being closely watched by industry insiders in New York who are wondering just how state regulators are going to handle an acquisition that, on its face, seems to violate state law.

MedMen Enterprises and PharmaCann announced the $682 million deal to stockholders last week, noting that the acquisition would create the nation’s largest cannabis company with licenses to operate 79 facilities across a dozen states, including two cultivation facilities and eight medical marijuana dispensaries in New York.

The only catch?

New York Public Health Law, which allows marijuana for medical use only, prohibits a registered marijuana organization from owning and operating more than four dispensaries in the state. The provision was designed to prevent market domination, even as some argue it limits access for patients who must travel to far-flung destinations to get their medicine.

In response to that concern, the state last year doubled the number of medical marijuana organizations allowed to operate statewide from five to 10 — a move that also doubled the number of allowed dispensaries statewide from 20 to 40.

The four-dispensary-per-company limit remains, however.

MedMen, a Los Angeles-based company known for its high-end marijuana stores, would acquire the assets and licenses of Illinois-based PharmaCann in the stock deal, though it must gain regulatory approval from local and state authorities in each of the markets where those assets are held.

“We are in talks with the regulators in all of the jurisdictions impacted by this acquisition, including New York,” said MedMen spokesman Daniel Yi. “The first step in any acquisition is for the two parties to agree to the terms and enter into a binding contract. Then you go seek approvals from all the relevant regulators. We have begun that process now.”

New York’s Department of Health, which oversees the state’s still-nascent medical marijuana program, said Monday that any merger proposal submitted to the agency for approval must be in compliance with state law. There are also requirements regarding ownership changes, said department spokeswoman Jill Montag.

“Regulations prohibit a registered organization from changing the composition of its ownership without prior written approval of the Department of Health,” she said. “MedMen and PharmaCann do not have approval from the department to conduct this transaction, and at this time the department has insufficient information to determine if approval can be granted.”

MedMen said it expects the transaction to close within six months to a year. It declined to speculate on its plans should New York reject the deal.

“It would not be proper for us to get ahead of the process,” Yi said. “We are currently in talks with regulators and we feel confident about the outcomes.”

In a news release issued Monday, MedMen said that it will use “commercially reasonable efforts” to transition licenses to a third party if it is unable to gain regulatory approvals within a two-year time span, with proceeds going to the company and its investors.

Founded in 2014 in Oak Park, Ill., PharmaCann was one of the five original organizations registered to operate grow sites and retail stores in New York, which went live with its medical marijuana program in January 2016.

The firm quickly became a major player in the industry, and today is considered one of the nation’s leading providers of medical cannabis with operations in Illinois, New York, Maryland and Massachusetts, and planned expansions in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Its facilities in New York include a cultivation center in Orange County and dispensaries in Albany, the Bronx, and Central and Western New York.

MedMen, meanwhile, had become a major player of its own, primarily out west, selling both recreational and medical marijuana. It entered the New York market last year when it bought out Bloomfield Industries, one of five original organizations licensed to operate in the state.

But it didn’t garner much attention until this past spring, when MedMen opened its first dispensary in Manhattan on pricey Fifth Avenue. The move appeared to be a gamble that New York would soon legalize recreational marijuana, since the state’s tightly regulated medical marijuana program is small by industry standards and unlikely to generate sizable revenues without significant expansion.

Indeed, New York appears poised to jump on the recreational bandwagon. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in January ordered a study into a regulated, adult-use program, and by June the Department of Health concluded such a program would have more positives than negatives.

A task force is currently researching and crafting legislation for consideration in the upcoming 2019 legislative session, and public hearings on the matter are being held statewide.

MedMen said Monday that it has consistently advocated for full legalization of marijuana, as well as an increase in the number of licenses and dispensaries.

“We believe that legal, regulated cannabis leads to safer, healthier and happier communities,” Yi said.

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