Cannabis Control Commission finalizes marijuana regulations

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By unanimous vote, the Cannabis Control Commission yesterday adopted final regulations to govern the recreational marijuana marketplace.
 
The commission filed the final regulations (935 CMR 500) with the secretary of the Commonwealth, who must then publish them in the Massachusetts Register before they become effective (a process expected to take about two weeks).
 
Download the final regulations (900K PDF)
Guidance for Municipalities Regarding Marijuana for Adult Use (1.3MB PDF)
 
The commission expects to begin accepting license applications for marijuana-related businesses on April 1, with the prospect of issuing the first provisional licenses on June 1. Retail marijuana sales are expected to begin around July 1.
 
The final regulations include nine license categories: cultivator, craft marijuana cooperative, microbusiness, product manufacturer, independent testing laboratory, storefront retailer, third-party transporter, existing licensee transporter, and research facility. The rules also establish universal product-labelling symbols to indicate that marijuana products are harmful to children.
 
The regulations cover a range of issues important to municipalities. Sections that would affect cities and towns include 935 CMR 500.101, which governs community outreach, compliance with local ordinances and bylaws, and host community agreements.
 
The regulations require marijuana establishment applicants to hold community outreach meetings in proposed host communities within six months of the application, and to have a completed host community agreement with the municipality prior to applying to the CCC for a license.
 
Applicants must also present proof that their proposed site complies with local ordinances and bylaws that are in effect at the time of the application. Once the CCC notifies a municipality that it has received a completed application for a recreational marijuana business in the community, the municipality will have 60 days to notify the CCC whether the application is in compliance.
 
Even in communities looking to enact zoning bylaws at a spring town meeting that takes place after April 1, under the regulations any prospective marijuana business will be required to engage in community outreach and to have a signed community host agreement before its license can be issued.
 
The MMA testified in favor of these rules during public hearings held in February.
 
“We believe that local officials know their communities best, and that this section would lead to a more productive partnership between communities and marijuana establishments that respects the will of the voters while ensuring a robust municipal voice in regulating the new industry at the local level,” the MMA stated in its written testimony. “A similar model was used successfully in the medical marijuana program, which allowed for safe access to medical marijuana while allaying public health and safety concerns.”
 
The law and pursuant regulations do not address several issues important to local governments. Chief among these is the status of a registered medical dispensary that seeks to “flip” to recreational sales in a city or town that has enacted a ban via the process laid out in Section 56(d) of Chapter 94G.
 
The MMA also urged the CCC to clarify which way a local government must round when calculating the number of recreational facilities as a percentage of liquor licenses, and also requested that the commission state unequivocally that it would respect local moratoriums.
 
In the end, the CCC put on hold controversial draft regulations that would have allowed “social-use” establishments, such as cannabis cafés, where patrons would be allowed to use marijuana on premises. The CCC also put off regulations that would provide for mixed-use establishments, such as yoga studios or chocolatiers, where proprietors would be allowed to sell or offer recreational marijuana goods.
 
The commission also put the brakes on a proposal to allow for direct delivery of marijuana products from cultivators to consumers.
 
These provisions had generated concern from a number of elected officials, including the governor, as well as from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, the Department of Public Health, the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, and the MMA, all of whom encouraged the CCC to proceed slowly and focus initially on establishing the fundamental aspects of the new industry before expanding categories for sale, delivery and consumption.
 
Massachusetts voters passed the so-called recreational marijuana law in November 2016. As of Dec. 15, 2016, the law allows individuals age 21 or older to possess, grow, use and “gift” certain amounts of marijuana in Massachusetts. The law also permits businesses to sell, grow, test and produce marijuana products, subject to a state-issued license.
 
The law also established the Cannabis Control Commission and the Cannabis Advisory Board, which includes a municipal representative.
 
For more information about the state’s recreational marijuana law and regulations, visit mass-cannabis-control.com.
 
Written by MMA Legislative Analyst David Lakeman and MMA Publications Editor & Web Director John Ouellette