Massachusetts’ two licensed cannabis retailers grossed $2.2 million in sales over just five days, MassLive reports.
The information was released by the state Cannabis Control Commission, which compiled sales data from the state’s two retailers: Cultivate, in Leicester; and New England Treatment Access (NETA), in Northampton. During the market’s first five days, Cultivate and NETA collectively sold 56,380 “units” of cannabis, with products ranging from just flower to edibles and hand lotion.
Sales on Tuesday, the market’s opening day, reached just over $440,000. Wednesday’s numbers were slightly higher and, while both stores were closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, sales continued to surge later during the holiday weekend.
The market launch has been so successful in part due to the draw of so-called “cannabis tourists” from nearby states, including New York City. Some community members in Leicester were incensed by the uptick in local traffic caused by long lines at Cultivate.
Resident Kim Miczek complained of people urinating on her front lawn while waiting in line, according to another report. “My road has become a long parking lot. I don’t like it,” she said during a Leicester Town Hall emergency meeting on Monday night.
However, another Leicester resident John Shocik said that though he didn’t originally vote for legalization, he was pleased by the extra attention and business it has brought to the town. “I didn’t vote for it but people did. We want more businesses … here there is a business,” he said.
The first two adult-use retail outlets are finally open in Massachusetts, more than two years after voters decided to legalize cannabis in the state, Fortune reports.
Two stores open today: Cultivate, in Leicester; and New England Treatment Access (NETA), in Northampton. They’re the first commercial cannabis retail outlets open to the general public on the East Coast. Customers need cash — though they can reportedly use a debit card at NETA — and ID showing that they’re over 21. Massachusetts law allows for purchase of up to one ounce of flower.
The cannabis licensing and approval process in Massachusetts has been fraught with delays. The state has been slow and careful in approving businesses for each stage of the supply and testing chain. Hopefully, today will signal a flood of new license approvals and “commence operations” notices from the state government for the remaining applicants.
Both retail outlets selected symbolic first customers. At Cultivate, the first customer was disabled Iraq War veteran Stephen Mandile and at NETA it was Northampton’s Mayor David Narkewicz, also a veteran.
“I’m proud to go to new businesses that create new tax revenue for the city and be there for their opening. I’m not going to act any differently because the new business happens to be adult-use marijuana.” — Mayor David Narkewicz, to the Boston Globe
There is a slight complication, however, as Massachusetts is in the middle of a snowstorm. Crowds are expected nonetheless. At Cultivate, CEO Sam Barber said they will have heated tents, music, and food despite the snow. Police details will also be on hand to help monitor the crowd during the snowstorm and to dissuade any potential impaired driving.
After nearly a year of delays, Massachusetts has made the final approvals necessary for a complete regulated supply chain and sales are expected soon, MassLive reports.
The original launch date for the industry was January 1, 2018. That date was quickly adjusted to July 1, 2018, which also passed without the launch of sales. Frustration among industry hopefuls has been growing for quite some time.
When “commence operations” notices were delivered to two of the state’s future testing labs, CDX Analytics and MCR Labs, the last piece of Massachusetts’ adult-use program has fallen into place. As all cannabis sold in the state must be tested for a variety of issues before going to retailers, the launch of these labs should signal the very near launch of retail sales.
While dispensaries have already received licenses and have signaled they are also ready to start sales, the state has yet to send a final “commence operations” notice to those businesses. That will be the final step.
“[W]e’re going to have these certificates of ‘commence operations’ done in the next week or two.” — Steve Hoffman, Chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission, in the report
Two dispensaries, New England Treatment Access in Northampton and Cultivate in Leicester, have announced they are set to begin once that notice comes down from state regulators. Pharmacannis Massachusetts in Wareham has also received a license, but that business is not as far along in the process as the others.
The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission has issued the first set of licenses for cannabis retailers since the state voted to legalize in 2016, WGBH reports.
Retail licenses were awarded to New England Treatment Access (NETA) in Northampton and to Cultivate Holdings in Leicester; Cultivate Holdings has also received cultivation and product manufacturing licenses.
Some have accused the Commission of dragging its feet during the licensing process; Commission Chair Steven Hoffman responded:
“We’re doing it right. I’m very proud of the way we’re doing it. We’re being careful, we’re being thorough. In the long term, this is going to be in the best interest, I believe, of the citizens of the state of Massachusetts.” — Cannabis Control Commission Chair Steven Hoffman, via WGBH
While this is an important development, the bigger milestone will be when stores officially open — but regulators say that could take several more weeks, as Massachusetts still lacks a licensed testing lab to guarantee that products on the state’s cannabis market do not contain pesticides or other potential contaminants. Hoffman said the Commission may vote to license a testing lab during their next meeting.
One commissioner, Shaleen Title, abstained from voting on the retail licenses because she disagreed with some of the host community agreements the businesses had arranged with municipal governments. “I cannot in good faith affirmatively vote to approve a licensee that has signed a community host agreement that at best is questionable, when it relates to the law, and it has not been reviewed,” said Commissioner Title.
NETA spokesperson Amanda Rositano said the company was happy with their host agreement, however, which required the company to provide a $10,000 donation for cannabis education and prevention programs and three percent of the company’s future gross sale revenues.
Cannabis cultivators in Massachusetts are considering a lawsuit to make the state’s Cannabis Control Commission review the statutorily-required agreements between cannabis businesses and the towns where they exist, according to the State House News Service.
In order to operate in any jurisdiction, a cannabis company must enter a host community agreement with that host town and/or city. The Commission has maintained that it does not have the authority to review the agreements, but cannabis companies are worried that municipalities will take advantage of the situation to extract more money via taxes and other fees than allowed under state law (local governments can only legally take up to three percent of a cannabis business’ gross sales).
“We just want them to review these going forward and strike down offending contractual clauses going backwards.” — Peter Bernard, president of the Massachusetts Grower Advocacy Council, via the State House News Service
Bernard said that his group was meeting with its lawyer on Wednesday to discuss options and that they were leaning towards taking the issue to court.
The Commission had hoped to launch the state’s adult-use cannabis industry by July 1, but that goal fell through and the Commission has yet to give an updated timeline for when consumers can expect to be able to purchase cannabis products.
Some advocates and entrepreneurs argue that the delay has been in part caused by the Commission’s attempts to reconcile the host community agreements.
The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (MCCC) made an official announcement Thursday reminding municipalities who are seeking agreements with adult-use cannabis businesses to stay within the law when it comes to negotiating financial terms, the Associated Press reports.
The MCCC said it has seen “anecdotal” evidence of communities exploiting cannabis businesses with excessive taxation and fees, which is against clear stipulations in Massachusetts‘ state cannabis law.
State law allows municipalities to charge businesses for anticipated costs of services such as road or traffic improvements, policing, etc. Host communities are not allowed, however, to charge more than 3 percent of the total annual revenue of the businesses and no arrangement may last longer than five years. In addition to the 3 percent for services, municipalities may also collect up to an additional 3 percent in taxes.
“If municipalities don’t follow that law, they are creating obstacles to the commission’s mission statement, which is to safely, equitably and productively implement the law. We already know that when barriers to entry are too high at the local level we end up with a market that is slow to start up and has a striking lack of diversity.” — Shaleen Title, MCCC Commissioner, in the report
However, the commission itself is unsure whether it has authority over the agreements made between municipalities and cannabis business owners. At least one commissioner, Jennifer Flanagan, has defended the communities, citing costs associated with substance abuse treatment that were not considered in the state’s cannabis regulations.
“Instead of hiding our heads in the sand and pretending this doesn’t exist, I really think that part of the conversation with municipalities has to be about the public health aspects of this.” — Jennifer Flanagan, MCCC Commissioner, via the Associated Press
The MCCC gave communities two weeks to respond to the directive.
Massachusetts‘ top federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, announced on Tuesday that he will focus his cannabis enforcement efforts on the overproduction and diversion of products into other markets, “targeted” distribution to minors, and organized crime, the Boston Globe reports.
Notably, Lelling is not giving the industry a blanket exemption from federal laws but still plans to focus the efforts of his office on combating the opioid epidemic, not state-legal cannabis entrepreneurs.
“I will not effectively immunize the residents of the Commonwealth from federal marijuana enforcement. My office’s resources, however, are primarily focused on combating the opioid epidemic that claims thousands of lives in the Commonwealth each year.” — U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, in a statement
In January, Lelling announced — much to the dismay of cannabis advocates throughout the state — that he could not “provide assurances that certain categories of participants in the state-level marijuana trade will be immune from federal prosecution.”
Cannabis advocates praised Lelling’s recent announcement.
“I’m thrilled the U.S. attorney put out such a statement. Targeting the opioid epidemic and, when it comes to marijuana, overproduction and distribution to minors are goals we totally support. …What he’s really saying is that he’s going to target the illicit market. Businesses that pay taxes and invest in this industry are not going to jeopardize that investment by selling to minors.” — David Torrisi, Executive Director of the Commonwealth Dispensary Association, in an interview with the Boston Globe
Some advocates hope Lelling’s announcement will ease the concerns of local officials who cite the federal prohibition of cannabis as reason to ban the industry on a local level.
“Hopefully people at the municipal level who were hesitant because of what’s going on federally get the message. [Lelling’s announcement] could absolutely improve access to the product.” — Kamani Jefferson, president of the Massachusetts Recreational Consumers Council, in the report
Massachusetts has issued the state’s first retail adult-use cannabis license, according to a MassLive report. The retail license allows the recipient company, Cultivate Holdings Inc., to sell adult-use cannabis out of its existing medical dispensary in Leicester, Massachusetts.
Cultivate was in competition with 19 other applicants for the first retail license, but it remains unclear when exactly Cultivate will be able to begin sales.
Massachusetts has fallen behind schedule in licensing the cannabis supply chain, especially for transportation and manufacturing. Earlier in June, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission awarded the state’s first cultivation license to Sira Naturals. Other than Sira Naturals and now Cultivate Holdings, the Cannabis Control Commission has not approved any other licenses. Cultivate also applied for cultivation and manufacturing licenses, which are still awaiting approval.
When Cultivate launches operations, their retail license will still require a last inspection from the Cannabis Control Commission before the license is finalized. Also, while medical cannabis is not taxed in Massachusetts, adult-use cannabis is taxed up to three times: 6.25 percent state sales tax, 10.75 percent excise tax, plus possible local taxes that can add up to an additional 3 percent. When Cultivate begins adult-use sales, it will need to tally those separately from medical cannabis.
Cultivate told regulators that, as soon as the hurdles have been cleared and the company’s adult-use sales are profitable, the company will donate 10 percent of profits to local charities.
Massachusetts is in the early stages of launching the first social equity cannabis work program in the nation, according to a MassLive report. The program would be designed to give minorities and others previously convicted of drug offenses a chance at working in the legal cannabis industry.
The commission currently gives priority for cannabis license applicants to those who come from areas or groups that have been overly affected by cannabis prohibition. According to Massachusetts state law, however, the Cannabis Control Commission must promote participation in the legal cannabis industry from demographics who were harmed disproportionately by cannabis prohibition.
The state is crafting its social equity program to provide training and mentoring to individuals from those same disadvantaged categories. The program has four tracks for training different types of workers for the cannabis industry: owners and entrepreneurs, management and executives, entry-level workers and the previously incarcerated, and a fourth track for people with existing professional skills that are useful in cannabis.
Candidates for the program must meet certain criteria. The program is for those with past drug convictions — or for their partners and/or children — who have lived in Massachusetts for at least one year. The program would also apply to people who have lived in a community classified as an area of “disproportionate impact” for the last five years with an income below 400% of the federal poverty level.
The rules do not specify race. However, Shekia Scott, Director of Community Outreach for the Cannabis Control Commission, said the goal is to help create a more racially diverse workforce.
“Everyone can’t be an owner. We have to think bigger about building out the full workforce and full industry.” — Shekia Scott, via MassLive
Scott said her next goal is outreach in the 29 communities classified as “disproportionately impacted,” to encourage people to apply for the program. The Cannabis Commission has allocated $300,000 for the program for this year.
The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission mistakenly approved 10 priority certification retail cannabis applications that were supposed to be denied, according to a State House News Service report. The CCC had approved 146 such applications but Executive Director Shawn Collins admitted that 10 of those were approved in error.
“Upon further review, we’ve identified a number of applicants that had previously been included in a batch for approval that, based on a transcription error, should have been in fact in a batch for denial. It is unfortunate and we will absolutely be in touch with each of those applicants to identify this error that did occur.” – Collins to the CCC via State House News
CCC Chairman Steve Hoffman said that staff actually made the right call but the denial recommendations “ended up just getting put in the wrong column.” The board voted to rescind those 10 approvals. Hoffman indicated that the CCC would “try everything [they] can to rectify the error.”
“If they do get denied we haven’t taken away anything that they should have gotten, but we still feel badly about the mistake and we’ll do what we can to rectify and to make it up.” – Hoffman to State House News
Hoffman said the body would change the way it reviews applications to prevent future errors.
Applications for a variety of Massachusetts canna-businesses are now open including craft cooperatives, micro-businesses, transporters, independent testing laboratories, and lab agents, the Boston Business Journal reports. According to the report, 312 applications have already been submitted to the Cannabis Control Commission, but just 25 have completed at least one part of the four-part process.
The agency is still reviewing priority certification applicants. The CCC received some 813 applications by last month’s deadline, but 400 of those were reportedly incomplete. So far, 66 social-equity applicants have been approved for priority certification and 80 medical cannabis operators have been approved to operate under the recreational regime. Transporters were expected to begin applying on June 1; however, CCC Executive Director Sean Collins indicated the CCC decided to include transporters in the current round of applications. He expects the number of applications to increase “pretty dramatically.”
Adult-use cannabis sales are expected to begin in Massachusetts July 1. Collins said that the application process has “launched successfully.” Once implemented, Massachusetts will become the first New England state to allow recreational cannabis sales.
Maine and Vermont have also passed legislation to allow adult cannabis use. Although Vermont’s legislature-approved law does not provide for a taxed-and-regulated industry and Maine’s governor has twice vetoed recreational implementation bills.
The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission has received more than 200 adult-use cannabis industry applications since they began accepting some applications on Tuesday, the State House News Service reports. Presently, the agency is only accepting applications from current medical cannabis dispensary owners who wish to sell their products to adults 21-and-older and empowerment applications.
The majority of the first wave of applicants were empowerment applications. Those applications are part of what’s often referred to as “social equity” programs. The Massachusetts version of the program is meant to “ensure that people from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana law enforcement are included in the new legal marijuana industry.” The state received 129 such applications.
The remaining 89 applications were from current operators looking to expand to the recreational market. The 218 total applications were sent to the agency between the noon launch on Monday and the CCC meeting at 10:30am on Tuesday, the report says.
As of Tuesday morning, five of the empowerment applications and 18 of the current operator applications had been completed, according to CCC Executive Director Shawn Collins.
Operators granted priority certification will be allowed to apply for commercial applications on Apr. 16; all other license types will start the application process on May or June 1, depending on the license type. Recreational sales are expected in the state July 1.
Starting today, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission will begin accepting applications for priority certification as registered marijuana dispensaries and economic empowerment applicants. Those granted priority certification will be allowed to apply for commercial applications on Apr. 16; all other license types will start their application process on May 1 or June 1, depending on the type.
The final regulations include nine license types, including:
- craft marijuana cooperative
- product manufacturer
- independent testing laboratory
- storefront retailer
- third-party transporter
- existing licensee transporter
- research facility
In a press release, Cannabis Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman praised the work of the team for implementing the application portion of the program on time.
“Today’s accomplishment is a testament to our diligent team and five, diversely talented leaders who were appointed by the Attorney General, Governor, and Treasurer, envisioned by the State Legislature, and authorized to implement legal, adult use marijuana by the voters in Massachusetts. Although we take pride in this moment, the Commission is also acutely aware of the significant work that remains. We look forward to the next phase of starting to license new businesses, and continuing to stand up a safe, equitable, and effective industry in our state.” – Hoffman in a statement
Priority certification is for current medical cannabis dispensary owners who wish to sell products to adults 21-and-older, while empowerment applicants are businesses that seek licenses to operate in low-income or minority communities disproportionately impacted by the so-called war on drugs.
Recreational cannabis sales are expected to begin in the commonwealth on June 1.
The Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission will not allow a local brewer to move forward with plans to roll out a CBD-infused beer, arguing that the cannabinoid is a Schedule I drug and the infusion would violate the Food & Drug Administration’s Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the Boston Business Journal reports.
“Even though retail sales of cannabis are expected to become lawful starting July 1, 2018, it will remain unlawful to manufacture and/or sell alcoholic beverages containing any cannabinoid extracts, including tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) and cannabidiol (“CBD”), regardless of whether it is derived from the cannabis plant or industrial hemp.” – the ABCC ruling, via Boston Business Journal
Alex Weaver, marketing director for Down the Road Beer Co. – the company that planned on creating the beer – said the company was “disappointed the current laws haven’t caught up with [the company’s] drive to innovate and continue to push the bounds of what craft beer could be.”
“Down the Road Beer Co. has been focused on innovation since day one. Our founder and head brewer, Donovan Bailey, loves pushing the bounds of what craft can be beyond the ordinary or expected. In that vein of innovation, brewing the first CBD beer in Massachusetts made perfect sense for us.” – Weaver to Boston Business Journal
The company still released a version of the brew, called Goopmassta Session IPA, but without CBD.
Down the Road is not the first craft brewery interested in infusing beer with cannabinoids. Last year, California-based Lagunitas Brewing Company released Supercritical IPA, which infused cannabis terpenes but neither CBD nor THC. Vermont’s Long Trail Brewing Company announced its own CBD-infused brew – called Medicator – last August; however, VT Digger reported last week that the U.S. Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has not yet issued a certificate of label approval for the brew. Tom Hogue, a spokesman for the federal agency, said that while products containing hemp can pass inspection it cannot contain a controlled substance. Hogue said that approval could take 10 days or more.
Licensing for some prospective Massachusetts retail dispensaries will begin on Apr. 2 as the state will open up the process for priority certification, which includes any dispensaries that have secured final or provisional licenses through the Department of Public Health and Economic Empowerment Applicants.
The priority licensing will run until the 16th, when priority applicants will begin applying for all other license types approved by the Cannabis Control Commission.
On May 1, the agency will begin accepting applications for cultivators, craft cannabis cooperatives, microbusinesses, and testing laboratories.
Beginning June 1, manufacturers, transporters, and non-priority prospective retailers will be able to begin applying for licenses.
“The Commission’s decision balances the significant progress we have made over six months with our responsibility to launch an efficient, orderly, and thorough application process in April. Our approach supports the unknown number of applicants who will be utilizing our licensing system for the first time, and staff who will be charged with certifying that establishments and agents are qualified to serve residents throughout Massachusetts. This choice will help ensure the process moves smoothly, which is in the best interests of the industry and the Commonwealth.” – Executive Director Shawn Collins in a press release
The commission will hold its next meeting tomorrow in Boston.
The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission has finalized the regulations for the state’s voter-approved recreational cannabis industry, four months before the program is set to go live, according to a WBUR report. The commission will begin accepting applications for industry operators on Apr. 1.
What’s in, what’s out?
- Social consumption and home delivery is off the table until at least next year. The commission voted 4-1 against including those activities last month. The panel did indicate they would revisit the social-use conversation in October.
- Currently operating medical cannabis dispensaries must set aside 35 percent, or a six-month average of their medical cannabis sales, for medical only sales. Medical patients will also be allowed express service at the dispensaries.
- Cultivation sites are capped at 100,000 square feet. A tiered system will allow cultivators to decide how much product they want to grow. Cultivators in their chosen tier must demonstrate to the commission they have sold 70 percent of their product to maintain the license for that tier – if they do not they will be bumped to the appropriate tier.
- Individuals convicted of trafficking hard drugs – all drugs other than cannabis – need not apply. Although, those with such convictions can obtain licenses to work in the industry so long as they are not touching the plant.
Commission Chair Steve Hoffman told WBUR that the commission still needs to make sure its technology is in place and keep educating Michigan municipalities what is and isn’t permitted under the rules. The rules were unanimously approved by the commission.
Massachusetts will not be the first state to allow social cannabis use as the Cannabis Control Commission voted 4-1 against the proposals, according to a MassLive.com report. The board also voted against allowing home delivery services. Medical cannabis home delivery is still permitted.
The panel did indicate they would re-start the social-use conversation in October, possibly allowing exclusive licenses, and issue draft rules in February 2019. Those exclusive licenses would be available to individuals with convictions for past drug convictions, the Boston Globe reports.
Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for the legalization campaign, said that the “pressure campaign” against social use conducted by Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey “proved difficult to overcome.”
“The larger issue is getting the application process up and running for the July sales start date. Additional delays would be an embarrassment for the state and a gift to black market dealers.” – Borghesani to MassLive
In a statement to the Globe, Baker said he was “pleased” with the decision.
In August, Alaska regulators unveiled a proposal to allow retail cannabis dispensaries to obtain on-site consumption endorsement to their licenses; however, that measure has not become law. Last week, Maine’s cannabis implementation committee voted 10-4 to remove all references from social-use licensing from the regulations for the forthcoming program.
On Monday, regulators in Denver, Colorado approved a social-use license to the Coffee Joint, which will allow patrons 21-and-older to vape of consumer edibles on-site. The establishment is the first-in-the-nation to receive such a license; although Colorado’s state law does not permit social use, Denver voters approved such a measure in 2016.
The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission is suggesting the creation of a state-run bank to serve the state’s canna-businesses after Chairman Steve Hoffman pointed out that no local banks or credit unions have indicated they would provide services to the industry, the Boston Globe reports.
“There’s a high degree of urgency, so it’s something we need to start talking about. Unfortunately, it’s a real possibility. We’re working as hard as we can to preempt that, but we can’t force any bank or credit union to service this industry.” – Hoffman to the Globe
The commission is concerned that a high-volume, cash-only industry would not only make the businesses a target for crime but would also complicate tax payments and product tracking efforts.
Gov. Charlie Baker’s office told the Globe that there are currently no plans to create such an entity. The measure would likely need legislative approval. According to the report, only Century Bank of Somerville is currently offering services to the state’s medical cannabis businesses. Massachusetts recreational cannabis industry is expected to be worth $1 billion by 2020. The state Department of Revenue expects to collect between $44 million and $82 million in cannabis-derived taxes in the next fiscal year.
Federally, some officials support allowing canna-businesses to access financial services. Earlier this month, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the agency doesn’t “want bags of cash” and “want to make sure [the federal government] can collect [the] necessary taxes and other things.” In January, attorney generals from 17 states, Washington. D.C. and Guam sent a letter to Congress urging them to “advance legislation that would allow states that have legalized medical or recreational use of marijuana to bring that commerce into the banking system.”
Massachusetts’ recreational cannabis industry is expected to come online July 1.
Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety and Security Daniel Bennett is opposing the creation of cannabis clubs in the state, alleging that allowing social use will increase access to minors and drugged driving incidents, according to a MassLive report.
“We believe the difficulties of safely administering the adult use marijuana market in the near term will be multiplied by the proposed licensing of social consumption establishments, mixed-use social consumption establishments, and home delivery retail services.” – Bennett, in a letter to the Cannabis Control Commission, via MassLive
Bennett’s concerns are shared by Gov. Charlie Baker, whose budget and environmental agencies legal counsel have warned against allowing social use immediately.
“If these folks want to take up a lot of these second and third tier issues at some point after the program is up and running, I think that’s fine. What I do worry about is creating a situation and a dynamic given the relatively early stages for the commission generally, and for this industry in particular, to get off on the wrong foot straight out of the gate.” – Baker to MassLive
In his letter, Bennett said that if consumers are prohibited from taking cannabis from social clubs off-site, it could increase the number of people driving under the influence, and that delivery services couldn’t determine whether someone under 21 is in the house.
The Cannabis Commission is currently crafting the final regulations for the state’s cannabis industry, which is expected to come online July 1. The draft rules were submitted last December.
Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, who was appointed by President Donald Trump and assumed office in December, told reporters yesterday that while opioid crimes are his top drug enforcement priority, he could not rule out bringing cases against canna-business operators and employees, the State House News Service reports. The comments come less than a month after Lelling released a memo saying he could not “provide assurances that certain categories of participants in the state-level marijuana trade will be immune from federal prosecution.”
Moreover, Lelling said that while members of the state’s Cannabis Control Commission have sought to meet with the prosecutor, the Justice Department “won’t allow” him to meet with the agency responsible for drafting the rules for the voter-approved adult-use cannabis industry.
“This office will pursue federal marijuana crimes as part of its overall approach to reducing violent crime, stemming the tide of the drug crisis, and dismantling criminal gangs, and in particular the threat posed by bulk trafficking of marijuana, which has had a devastating impact on local communities.” – Lelling, during a press conference
Lelling, however, noted that he doesn’t believe Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to micromanage state prosecutors, but that his office should pursue “ambitious cases.”
Earlier this month, 19 attorney generals from 17 states, Washington, D.C., and Guam – including Massachusetts’ Maura Healey – sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to advance legislation that would allow cannabis operators to access financial services.
Adult-use sales in Massachusetts are expected to begin in July.
The Marijuana Policy Project in Massachusetts is drafting legislation which would prohibit state and municipal employees from cooperating with federal authorities in any crackdown on the legal cannabis industry, according to Boston University’s Daily Free Press.
According to Jim Borghesani, the Massachusetts spokesman for the MPP, “The Refusal of Complicity Act” would ensure the state maintains solidarity in curbing the legal cannabis industry in the state.
“So if there’s a scenario – it might be that the federal government decides they are going to charge a legal operator with a crime – no local police agency would be able to participate in that operation in any way whatsoever.” – Borghesani, to the Daily Free Press
MPP Massachusetts Political Director Will Luzier indicated that the legislation may include a section preventing the state from engaging in civil enforcement – which allows law enforcement to seize and sell land used for cannabis cultivation and commerce even if the owner has not been convicted of any crime.
The measure, a move to counteract any federal enforcement on the state’s voter-approved cannabis legalization policy, would need to be adopted by state lawmakers and introduced in the legislature. If approved, it would make Massachusetts a cannabis “sanctuary state.”
In a memo dated Jan. 8, the U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts, Andrew E. Lelling, said he cannot “provide assurances that certain categories of participants in the state-level marijuana trade will be immune from federal prosecution.”
“This is a straightforward rule of law issue. Congress has unambiguously made it a federal crime to cultivate, distribute and/or possess marijuana. As a law enforcement officer in the Executive Branch, it is my sworn responsibility to enforce that law, guided by the Principles of Federal Prosecution. To do that, however, I must proceed on a case-by-case basis, assessing each matter according to those principles and deciding whether to use limited federal resources to pursue it.” – U.S. Attorney Lelling in a memo
The memo comes less than a week after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he was rescinding the federal cannabis industry protections outlined in the 2013 Cole Memo, issued by former Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole. Lelling indicated that “people and groups” had sought additional guidance as Massachusetts regulators move forward implementing rules for the state’s voter-approved adult-use cannabis program.
“Our priority has always been to protect public safety and develop regulations that are compliant with all laws including those passed by the voters and the legislature legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in the Commonwealth. As for as the mandate and the work of the Cannabis Control Commission is concerned nothing has changed.” – Statement from Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission
Sessions, in his memo rescinding the Cole Memo protections, said “prosecutors should follow the well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions.”
Massachusetts’ Cannabis Control Commission has approved draft regulations for the forthcoming recreational cannabis industry, including rules for cannabis clubs and potential licenses specifically for research, according to a WCVB5 report. The regulations are not final and require public comment before gaining final approvals.
What else is included? Rules allow home-delivery, but require positive identification that the buyer is 21-years-old or older and that they sign for deliveries. The research license would allow a facility to cultivate and purchase cannabis but not sell it. Human testing could be considered on individuals 21-and-older if approved by a review board. The rules also include equity provisions to ensure industry opportunities are available to communities targeted by the War on Drugs – specifically residents of minority neighborhoods.
Municipalities in California – Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco – include similar provisions. Similar provisions in Ohio’s regulations have led to a lawsuit from a rejected cultivation applicant, claiming the provisions run afoul of the state Constitution’s equal protection clause. Lawmakers in Maryland are also considering adding 10 new cultivation and processor licenses for minority business owners.
Jim Borghesani, spokesman for Yes on 4 campaign: “While we have a few minor changes we’d like to see, including removing the requirement for delivery recipients to provide signatures and the requirement for license applicants to hold mandated public hearings, we commend the commission for putting together a strong, sensible package of regulations.”
Legal cannabis sales are set to begin in Massachusetts July 1.
Massachusetts‘ Cannabis Control Commission has approved a social-use policy that will allow cannabis to be consumed on premises in so-called “cannabis cafés,” WBUR News reports. Under the rules, budtenders will need to undergo training to identify whether a patron should be cut off and alcohol will not be served at the cafés.
“I think that with cannabis use, having been so underground as part of prohibition, it was something that had to be kept secret and as a result, there wasn’t as much opportunity for education and awareness and the sharing of information about responsible use, so that’s the part I’m excited about.” – CCC Commissioner Shaleen Title.
The social-use licenses will extend to other businesses, such as spas, although the commission will discuss additional policies and is expected to vote on draft regulations by the end of next week.
Cannabis Advisory Board Member Michael Latulippe called the measure “transformative.”
“I think we’ll be the first state in the country to offer this, so essentially we will have in place a regulated, safe and controlled system by which to consume cannabis on site and legal businesses.” – Latulippe
The state’s cannabis regulations must be approved by mid-March in order for the industry to roll out on July 1.