In 2008 Massachusetts voters decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis and in 2012 Massachusetts became the 18th state to legalize medical cannabis through a ballot. In November 2016, Massachusetts voters approved Question 4, the initiative to legalize the recreational use of cannabis and first retail cannabis business was opened in Massachusetts in November 2018.
In 2022, medical cannabis sales totaled about $268 million and cannabis stores sold almost $1.5 billion. Since November 2018, total program revenue to date is over $3.7 billion. Research from multiple cannabis data and investment firms predict Massachusetts can become such a travel destination.
Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) Deadlines
|March 15, 2018||CCC shall promulgate rules and regulations for the issuance of licenses.|
|April 1, 2018||Accept applications for licenses.|
|April 1-15, 2018||Review applications of operating medical establishments and businesses that demonstrate experience in or business practices that promote economic empowerment in communities disproportionately impacted, for grant or denial of license.|
|May 1, 2018||Independent Testing Laboratory regulations and rules promulgated.|
Regulations for Nantucket and Duke counties promulgated.
|June 1, 2018||CCC received first applications including 51 the most completed to review.|
|November 20, 2018||First Retail Marijuana Establishments opened in Massachusetts.|
Cannabis Licenses Types available in Massachusetts
“An MTC acquires, cultivates, possesses, processes, transports, sells, distributes, delivers, dispenses, or administers marijuana, products containing cannabis or marijuana, related supplies, or educational materials to registered qualifying patients or their personal caregivers for medical use. MTCs may deliver marijuana and marijuana products directly to patients and caregivers after receiving Commission approval.”
“A Marijuana Cultivator may cultivate, process, and package marijuana, to transfer marijuana to other MEs, but not to consumers. Cultivators must select what tier they will be in by determining the total canopy they will cultivate. ”
“A Craft Marijuana Cooperative is a type of Marijuana Cultivator which may cultivate, obtain, manufacture, process, package, and brand marijuana and marijuana products to transport marijuana to MEs, but not to consumers.”
“A Marijuana Product Manufacturer is an entity authorized to obtain, manufacture, process, and package marijuana and marijuana products, to transport marijuana and marijuana products to MEs, and to transfer marijuana and marijuana products to other MEs, but not to consumers.”
“A Marijuana Retailer is an entity authorized to purchase, repackage, white label, and transport marijuana or marijuana products from MEs, and to sell, repackage or otherwise transfer marijuana and marijuana products to other MEs and to sell to consumers.”
“An ME that is otherwise licensed by the Commission and also licensed to purchase, obtain, and possess Marijuana or Marijuana Products solely for the purpose of transporting, temporary storage, sale and distribution on behalf of other MEs or MTCs to other establishments, but not to consumers.”
“A Marijuana Transporter is an entity that may only transport marijuana or marijuana products and does not hold another ME license and is not licensed as an MTC. A Third-party Transporter is permitted to transport marijuana and marijuana products between MEs and between MTCs.”
“A Marijuana Research Facility licensee or Research Licensee is an academic institution, non-profit corporation, domestic corporation, or entity authorized to do business in Massachusetts. A Marijuana Research Facility may cultivate, purchase, or otherwise acquire marijuana for the purpose of conducting research regarding marijuana and marijuana products if the licensee possesses such a license to do so or is allowed to do so through an approved Research Permit if
the cultivation or product manufacturing process is the subject of its research.”
“An Independent Testing Laboratory (ITL) is an entity that does not hold any other type of ME/MTC license and is properly accredited to perform tests in compliance with the stringent requirements of the Commission’s protocols for testing marijuana and marijuana products. Licensed ITLs may test marijuana and marijuana products in the adult- and medical- use markets.”
“A Standards Testing Laboratory is an entity that would otherwise qualify to be an Independent Testing Laboratory, but instead performs blind tests to verify the results of an Independent Testing Laboratory at the request of the Commission.”
“A Microbusiness is a collocated Tier 1 Marijuana Cultivator, and/or Marijuana Product Manufacturer limited to purchase 2,000 pounds of marijuana from other MEs in one (1) year.”
“A Marijuana Courier licensee may deliver marijuana or marijuana products directly to consumers or patients at a residential address from a Marijuana Retailer or Medical Marijuana Treatment Center with which the Marijuana Courier has a delivery agreement.”
“A Marijuana Delivery Operator may purchase at wholesale and warehouse finished marijuana or marijuana products acquired from a Marijuana Cultivator, Marijuana Product Manufacturer, Microbusiness or Craft Marijuana Cooperative, and sell and deliver directly to consumers.”
“Social Consumption Establishment means an entity licensed to sell marijuana or marijuana products and allow consumers to consume marijuana or marijuana products solely on its premises.”
Cannabis Licensing Process in Massachusetts
Step 1: Review Laws
Research the laws and regulations governing adult-use or medical-use marijuana for more information about the regulatory requirements for licensure in the city or town you wish to operate.
Some municipalities, such as the City of Boston, require additional steps before submitting your application to the Commission. You may wish to speak with the municipality and inquire about the necessary requirements for operating a Marijuana Establishment within the area. View the status of municipal zoning and bylaws by city or town.
Step 2: Make Plans
Begin researching and writing the operational plans for your business – you’ll need these plans later when you submit your application to the Commission. All plans must be compliant with adult-use or medical-use regulations.
Some plans include, but are not limited to: a business plan, a diversity plan, a security plan, a plan for positive impact, and a plan to remain compliant with local codes and ordinances. Each plan should be tailored to your application and include items required in the regulations.
Step 3: Gather Information
Gather information related to the persons and entities who will be listed on the license and who will have control over the business. The persons and entities that must be included in the application are defined by the regulations.
When you are ready to submit your application, you must include identifying information about each person and entity to be listed.
Step 4: Hold a Community Outreach Meeting and Sign a Host Community Agreement
Host a Community Outreach Meeting and work with the municipality on the required Host Community Agreement.
As part of the application process, you must submit evidence that a Community Outreach Meeting occurred and that a Host Community Agreement has been signed with the municipality.
Step 5: Submit Your Application
Submit your application online along with applicable license and background check fees. Visit the Massachusetts Cannabis Industry Portal (MassCIP) to begin the process for an adult-use license application or an MTC license application.
Step 6: Wait for Approval
The Commission will review the application based on its priority status and when it was submitted. Once the Commission reviews the application, the applicant will be notified via email.
Within 90 days of your license application, the Commission will issue either a provisional license or a rejection. The Commission will perform inspections and request that background checks and fingerprinting be performed by all individuals listed on the license.
A certification form will be sent to the host municipality to confirm your establishment is in compliance with local codes and ordinances. Once these steps have been completed, the Commission may consider your application for a final license.
Step 7: Final Inspection
Prior to opening, an additional inspection will then be conducted. Upon review of the inspection report, your establishment will receive a notification that it is allowed to commence operations and start operating as a business.
As of July 2022, more than 1,500 pending applications have been submitted and 1,317 licenses have been awarded, including 433 retailer, 340 cultivator and 262 manufacturer licenses.
The baseline tax is 17 percent, which is determined from a combination of a 6.25 percent sales tax and a 10.75 percent special excise tax on adult use.
Any city or town may impose a local sales tax upon the sale or transfer of cannabis or cannabis products by a cannabis retailer operating within the city or town to anyone other than a cannabis establishment at a rate not greater than 3 per cent of the total sales price received by the cannabis retailer as a consideration for the sale of cannabis or cannabis products.
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