Cannabis regulations were finally finalized on March 6 and Massachusetts marijuana enthusiasts have a lot to look forward to in 2018. Medical marijuana patients will be protected from shortages and applicants from communities worst affected by cannabis criminalization will be prioritized for licenses. But unfortunately, the dream of Massachusetts paving the way in America with cannabis cafes and yoga studios has been put on the back burner.
“We’re definitely disappointed,” said Karima Rizk, owner of Cafe Vert in Easthampton and cannabis-cafe hopeful. “But when you’re in the cannabis industry … the regulatory landscape is always rapidly changing.”
On March 6, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) voted unanimously to approve the regulations for the adult-use cannabis industry and will be filing the regulations with the Secretary of State by the March 15 deadline. Once language from the March 6 meeting is incorporated into the final regulations (935 CMR 500.00 as they’re officially called) the debate and public comments on about 150 policies will finally come to an end.
“Today’s meeting was the culmination of months of dogged dedication to an open and collaborative process that embraced the diversity of thought, experience, and perspective of Massachusetts residents, in service of the people’s will,” said CCC Chairman Steven Hoffman in a press release.
The final version of the regulations include nine license categories: cultivator, craft marijuana cooperative, microbusiness, product manufacturer, independent testing laboratory, storefront retailer, third-party transporter, existing licensee transporter, and research facility. Absent from the list are home delivery of recreational cannabis and social consumption. Last week the CCC voted to delay home delivery and social consumption (like cannabis cafes) agreeing to issue draft regulations on those topics by February 2019.
Cafe Vert announced on Facebook that they will be serving CBD (a non-psychotropic and thus less regulated cannabinoid) infused coffee when they open.
“I’m pleased to say that we’re full steam ahead,” Rizk said. “Mostly what I’m focusing on the next few month is legally fundraising and infrastructure.”
On March 6 the CCC passed one measure that is totally unique to Massachusetts: a requirement protecting medical marijuana patients from shortages. The requirement stipulates that Registered Marijuana Dispensaries (RMD) maintain a medical supply of cannabis products for their patients equivalent to 35 percent of inventory or the average sales over the last six months if co-located with an adult-use marijuana establishment. Given that Nevada, Washington, and Colorado all experienced shortages after legalizing recreational cannabis sales, this requirement will protect medical cannabis patients from losing access if the same happens in Massachusetts.
Another win for activists is the provision that Economic Empowerment Applicants will be prioritized, in other words, communities and areas disproportionately impacted by high rates of arrest, conviction, and incarceration related to the criminalization of cannabis will be prioritized when it comes to licensing.
In February, Leverett resident Cecelela Tomi spoke at the CCC public forum in Greenfield about the importance of including diverse voices in the conversation about cannabis, particularly because communities of color have been more affected by the criminalization of cannabis.
“I think we should be careful about leaving people out of the conversation,” Tomi said.
The CCC also voted to include Executive Office of Energy and Environment Affairs’ (EEA) recommendations to reduce cultivator energy use and limit emissions and to establish a flexible fee and licensing structure.
Lastly the CCC released finalized symbols to indicate that a product contains cannabis and is harmful to children. License applications will start to be accepted on April 1.
Meg Bantle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.