2016 was a monumental year, especially because of the progress made toward marijuana legalization in several U.S. states, including Massachusetts. Massachusetts has had a medical marijuana program in place since 2012, but as of 2016, 53.66 percent of voters voted ‘yes’ to allow adults aged 21 and above to purchase and possess recreational marijuana, according to CannabisNow. However, the state’s lawmakers have delayed the law from going into effect by making different changes, which has caused serious concerns amongst Massachusetts residents, dispensary owners, and marijuana growers, among others. Find out what these changes could mean for the state as well as when you can legally purchase recreational marijuana in the Bay State
Massachusetts‘ Recreational Marijuana Program Updates
Massachusetts was one of the few states that approved of a recreational marijuana program in 2016 along with California and Nevada; however, Massachusetts’ program hasn’t gone into effect yet. Although the majority of Massachusetts’ voters pushed for the enactment of a recreational marijuana program, Boston lawmakers have been looking for flaws in the law. Additionally, elected Massachusetts officials made a decision to delay the opening of retail marijuana dispensaries by six months, according to CannabisNow. Then, unfortunately, the state’s governor, Charlie Baker, and Boston’s mayor, Marty Walsh, “led an effort to pull a backroom repeal and replace’ of the voter-approved law.”
When Will Recreational Sales Begin?
According to Massachusetts’ current recreational marijuana law, by next summer, the state will supposedly allow retail marijuana dispensaries to open. Although Nevada, California, and Massachusetts approved of recreational marijuana programs at the same time, each state’s program will operate differently, and Massachusetts is certainly operating at a slow pace. As mentioned by Mass Live, the lawmakers’ tactic of delaying the opening of retail weed dispensaries to July 2018 instead of January 2018 is because they need time to craft the rewrite and get it to the governor’s desk. However, this delay and additional rewrites demonstrate the lawmakers’ reluctance to get the recreational program running as soon as possible.
Marijuana Licenses & Possible Weed Shortage:
Massachusetts’ recreational marijuana program is set up in a way where recreational store owners, producers, and cultivators cannot apply for licenses until April 2018, and licenses won’t be issued until after June 1st, according to Mass Live. Recreational sales are expected to begin in July, but there are lots of concerns about Massachusetts issuing licenses too late, which will likely lead to a shortage in supply that’ll fall short of satisfying the state’s demand.
In an article by Cannabis Media Group, the following was stated by Brandon Pollock, the CEO of Theory Wellness: “It’s highly likely in the first six to 18 or 24 months in the market, there will not be enough cultivation space to support the demand,” which is not a situation Massachusetts should put themselves in. Fortunately for medical marijuana dispensaries and their grow facilities, they’ll have dibs on recreational licenses, but there are only twelve marijuana dispensaries in the state, which serve 40,000 medical consumers, according to CannabisNow.
Massachusetts‘ Marijuana Demand
Once recreational marijuana dispensaries open, the demand is expected to increase by 3-4 times and perhaps more, according to Peter Bernard, the President of the Massachusetts Grower Advocacy Council, as mentioned by CannabisNow. Thus, it’s likely that the first open retail dispensaries will sell out in less than a week. Additional marijuana analysts estimate that the state could experience chronic shortages for up to two years.
Massachusetts’ Marijuana Problems
To properly grow, harvest, and cure consumer-ready marijuana takes time, but Massachusetts won’t issue cultivation licenses until one month before retail stores open, which is uncalculated timing to say the least. Overall, the main problem Massachusetts will most likely experience will consist of a lack of cultivators to meet the state’s demand.
The Future of Recreational Marijuana in Massachusetts
Predictions from different marijuana experts, including Peter Bernard, agree that new retail recreational dispensaries won’t have products for sale until late spring or early summer of 2019 due to the shortage the state will most likely experience. Adam Fine, an attorney who specializes in marijuana law, told Mass Live, “Although more licenses have been issued, there likely will be only around two dozen facilities in operation by the time the recreational licenses are issued. In comparison, Colorado and Washington had hundreds of dispensaries.”
Not only are these figures vastly different, but so are the figures of the medical and recreational marijuana industries. According to Mass Live‘s estimates, the medical marijuana marketplace is worth a few hundred million dollars, whereas the recreational marijuana marketplace could reach $1.2 billion.
If Massachusetts wants their recreational marijuana program to succeed, they’ll need to make significant changes by allowing more cultivators to start growing more than one month before official sales begin. A chronic shortage of marijuana isn’t something people would forget, and it certainly wouldn’t be the best start to the progressive shift the state has been working towards.
If you’re interested in learning more about Massachusetts’ recreational marijuana legal situation or finding medical dispensaries, read the article below:
To learn more about Massachusetts’ marijuana laws, including details on possession, cultivation, and distribution, check out the article below:
Massachusetts Marijuana Laws and Penalties
Article by: Nicole Skrobin