Update: Two years after Massachusetts voters approved Question 4 legalizing the recreational use and sale of marijuana, two stores opened on Nov. 20 – Cultivate in Leicester and New England Treatment Access (NETA) in Northampton. At Cultivate, pot patrons paid from $19 to $420 for flower products.
In Northampton, Mayor David Narcewicz was first on line at NETA; he purchased an infused chocolate bar for $20. “It’s just a historic moment for the commonwealth and for the city,” he crowed. “I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Back in June, the Massachusetts’ Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), tasked by the legislature and governor to draft and implement the establishment of a retail cannabis industry, publicly indicated that their self-directed date to open non-medical cannabis retail outlets, July 1, would not be realized.
The Commission’s intent was to avoid mistake-laden employee background checks, consumer chaos and confusion and product inventory problems that occurred in the six previous states that created commercial cannabis markets (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada and California).
NORTHAMPTON MAYOR DAVID NARCEWICZ: “It’s just a historic moment for the commonwealth and for the city. I’m glad to be a part of it.”
At a meeting on June 15, the CCC acknowledged that nearly 1,100 applications for cannabis-related businesses had been received by the state since the application process officially began on June 1. However, only 53 applications had been fully completed at the time; most of the first 28 applicants were, predictably, retail medical cannabis companies already operating in Massachusetts.
CCC director Steve Hoffman said the Commission wanted to maximize efforts to have safe, compliant and uniformly regulated cannabis retail shops across the entire state. “We’re going to do this right,” he stated. “If that means we have few or no stores on July 1 and it takes a few more weeks, I hope and expect that everybody in the state believes that’s the right thing to do. We certainly believe that’s the right thing to do.”
To many observers of the state’s cannabis industry, the delay in issuing licenses was neither a surprise nor an unexpected burden as the CCC commissioners at their public hearings around the state for the last year consistently reminded the public that the July 1 date was more inspirational than a necessity.
“Other states that rushed to hit an arbitrary deadline ended up with no inventory in some cases, with no licenses in place and no background checks and online inventory being done,” Hoffman added. “We’re not going to do that.”
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