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.
Original Article at http://www.courant.com/business/hc-biz-mass-marijuana-dispensaries-update-20180912-story.html