In the final days of 2016, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill delaying the opening of retail marijuana operations in Massachusetts by six months, from January to July 2018. The way the House and the Senate approved the delay—without public notice, public hearing or discussion during a lightly attended informal joint session—has garnered criticism from legalization advocates. Members of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws stated the delay “flies in the face of the will of voters,” who approved the legalization of recreational marijuana by ballot question in November. However, lawmakers argued that the delay was necessary to create an effective bureaucracy to regulate marijuana sales.
In addition to delaying the opening of marijuana shops, the new bill also extends the deadline for the creation of the Cannabis Control Commission, which will oversee and regulate Massachusetts’ recreational marijuana market, as well as the deadline for the Commission to generate detailed guidelines regarding licensing, packaging, and more. With this delay, is a six-month delay in all prior deadlines for accepting recreational marijuana establishment licenses – to July 1, 2018.
Below is the full list of delayed deadlines:
- The state treasurer must make initial appointments to the Cannabis Control Commission by September 1, 2017 (previously March 1, 2017).
- The governor must make initial appointments to the Cannabis Advisory Board by August 1, 2017 (previously February 1, 2017).
- The Commission must promulgate marijuana regulations by March 15, 2018 (previously September 15, 2017).
- The Commission must begin accepting licensing applications for marijuana testing facilities by April 1, 2018 (previously October 1, 2017).
- The Commission must begin accepting licensing applications from experienced marijuana establishment operators by April 1, 2018 (previously October 1, 2017).
- If fewer than 75 licenses for registered medical dispensaries have been issued on April 1, 2018, the Commission must begin accepting applications from all applicants by July 1, 2018 (previously January 1, 2018).
- If more than 75 licenses for registered medical dispensaries have been issued on April 1, 2018, the Commission must begin accepting applications from all retail and manufacturer applicants on April 1, 2019 (previously October 1, 2018), and cultivator licenses by April 1, 2020 (previously October 1, 2019).