The preparation that has gone into allowing recreational sales of cannabis could very well rival the growing anticipation of those looking to participate in that newfound freedom come July 1st. That's right, recreational marijuana in Massachusetts in coming soon.
Summer Will Be In Full Bloom
For now, residents must apply and qualify for a medical marijuana license to have the option to buy weed legally. With over 800 applicants for priority certification, it's clear that there is an impressive segment of the business sector that is keen on pioneering this highly anticipated opportunity.
Regulators are approaching the introduction of this budding industry with due diligence and lots of due process after observing the triumphs and challenges within the states that have already embarked upon this road. For many, the time this has taken has made it feel like the laying of the green brick road in Massachusetts has been one brick at a time.
Other factors that will constrain recreational marijuana in Massachusetts are time and space. More than half of the municipalities have delayed allowing legal cannabis sales for now, and the Cannabis Control Commission has made it clear that prospective retail marijuana entities have to earn the trust of the communities that they wish to operate in by way of involvement in community outreach.
Industry Issues Arise as The Plan Moves Towards Roll-out
Compounding that is the fact that cannabis takes months to mature, creating expectations that legal weed won’t start to be available in substantial quantities until late fall at the earliest, and the anticipated boon won't be able to start gaining traction until sometime around the new year.
It is no doubt that supply will not likely be sufficient for demand. Cultivators are limited to 100,000 square feet, and non-priority license applications didn’t officially open until May 1st.
Taking into consideration the many months that it takes for a cannabis plant to be ready for harvest, this creates a scenario that makes it impossible for most licensed retailers to have a significant supply available for the likely demand come July 1st.
There are only 22 established medical marijuana dispensaries, and some of those dispensaries will not be offering retail services because of agreements made with the communities within which they operate. The fact that not all of them will be offering recreational marijuana come July 1st, combined with the fact that only those medical dispensaries already in operation granted recreational licenses have been the only entities legally able to cultivate before May 1st, will also have an impact on the availability of marijuana for sale.
What about Medical Marijuana Dispensaries?
Besides those medical marijuana dispensaries awarded retail cannabis licenses, the speculated is that the majority of the rest of the licenses will go to applicants with the economic empowerment initiative. However, it is unclear how those businesses will have any cannabis to sell unless the medical dispensaries approved to begin retail services have a surplus supply to sell to them, given the time constraints of the cultivation license approvals.
Additionally, medical dispensaries given retail licenses will be required to maintain 35% of their inventory strictly for medical marijuana consumers in anticipation of the impact recreational marijuana in Massachusetts will have on the overall supply. Expectations are that as weed become scarce, and if events unfold as they have in neighboring states, the medical marijuana industry is sure to feel the effects of this change for some time to come.
Looking Ahead to the Future of Recreational Marijuana In Massachusetts
June 1st will mark when the retail and product manufacturer license applications open to eligible parties, with certain restrictions. Given the sizeable number of priority status applicants, initial approvals are mainly expected to go to established medical marijuana dispensaries and the economic empowerment applicants.
Among the fast-tracked applications, over 100 are from pre-established medical marijuana entities that have not yet actually opened any medical dispensaries. Debates are ongoing as to whether allowing hybridization of these shops will help or hurt the medical marijuana industry.
Many presuppose that those who are using cannabinoids to aid themselves due to medical issues will find incentive to continue to pursue and maintain medical marijuana licenses due to the that the fact that recreational marijuana sales will be taxed upwards of 20%, and there are other benefits afforded to medical cardholders not available to recreational clients.
Come fall, expectations are that the opportunity to buy weed legally will become more abundant. By that point, those granted cultivation licenses in May will start to have a more ample supply to provide to those who obtained retail marijuana licenses in June, of whom initially about three quarters are expected to be economic empowerment applicants.
Approved in November of 2016, the CCC has delayed implementation of social consumption establishments and delivery until the end of February when they are expected to roll out regulations, due to concerns about consumption and distance limits, age verification, and impaired driving. For guidance, Massachusetts can look to Colorado since social consumption was already approved July of last year.