Massachusetts voted to legalize recreational marijuana use in the November 2016 election. After months of debate, Governor Charlie Baker signed the long-awaited marijuana bill into law in July 2017. The new law taxes marijuana between 17 and 20 percent, depending on where the marijuana is purchased. The new law also created the Cannabis Control Commission (“CCC”) which is comprised of five-member panel that oversees the implementation of the new marijuana law.
The CCC must create concrete parameters around the sale of marijuana before any sale can happen. On Monday December 11, 2017, the CCC approved the establishment of “cannabis cafés” which allows a person to go a café, buy marijuana, then consume it right there. It is not yet clear whether people will be able to smoke in the cafés, as the CCC continues to examine issues such as second hand smoke and workplace safety. The CCC decided that they will issue “social use” licenses to businesses like spas that wish to sell or use cannabis infused lotions as well as the new cannabis cafés. Massachusetts is the first state to allow this. The CCC also plans on accepting applications for social use licenses for micro-businesses and craft cannabis cultivators. The CCC to work out the details but they hope to make a decision on the licenses by October 2018.
The CCC held a number of public meetings and voted on specific regulations relating to the sale of marijuana during the week of December 11th. The hot topics of debate included: local control; cannabis cafés; delivery services; and advertising and packaging. The CCC voted on and approved a draft set of regulations in late December 2017 and filed the draft with the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office. (To see the draft regulations, click here.) The CCC plans on holding more public hearings relating to the sale of marijuana throughout the beginning of 2018. State law mandates that the regulations must be finalized by March 15, 2018.
The CCC hopes the legal sale of marijuana to begin July 1, 2018 to adults 21 and over. At this point, it remains unclear how many marijuana retail stores will open when the sale of marijuana becomes legal. The CCC expects that the 17 existing medical marijuana stores throughout Massachusetts will likely convert to retail stores. The CCC is already warning consumers to adjust their expectations though. Massachusetts will not be like Colorado is now when it comes to marijuana retail stores. It will take some time for the retailers to open their stores, and it will take time for suppliers to provide product to the stores. Indeed, some analysts suggest that there may be an initial shortage and higher prices until the supply comes closer to meeting the anticipated demand.