Building the Foundations for the Massachusetts Cannabis Industry

October 3, 2017

Creating a multibillion dollar industry from scratch that is at the intersection of drug policy, medicine, real estate development, technology, agriculture and the Trump Administration is sure to get attention in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) not only has to handle hot political topics, they have a broad range of issues to address, in a short time frame, and in a cultural environment that is always ready to bring scrutiny.

Over the next several months and for years after the CCC will set the framework for the local market of an industry that is growing, innovating and spreading across the country. The CCC will learn from other states and countries that have lifted the cannabis prohibition but will inevitably create a market unique to Massachusetts. With the cannabis industry’s introduction to scale in the state we will see retailers, cultivators, manufacturers and ancillary companies become significant employers, neighbors in our cities and towns and a part of our cultural and economic landscape.

The CCC commissioners have a multitude of decisions in front of them to make that will shape how cannabis businesses function, how consumers interact with these companies and how they will integrate in their communities. As established cannabis businesses introduce operations in the state or local entrepreneurs move to build successful brands in Massachusetts, beginning a relationship and providing input to the CCC and other officials will be critical. In this formative stage, the CCC will establish criteria for those seeking licenses and what the application process will look like. They will also set regulations and make policy decisions on a wide range of topics such as:

  • Cultivation, seed to sale tracking, craft cultivation
  • Manufacturing Edibles, Extraction
  • Product testing and lab standards
  • Transportation/Distribution/Delivery
  • Packaging/Labeling
  • Potency/Serving size
  • Advertising rules and restrictions
  • Social Consumption
  • Integration of Medical Marijuana
  • Social Justice issues

The CCC has a full plate and is receiving input from a wide variety of sources. As a political entity, commissioners are looking for information they can trust and partners they know can deliver in what will be a highly competitive and closely watched process.

Over the last month, the CCC members have met several times, set initial operational goals and taken steps to put interview and hire for the important role of an executive director responsible for building the new regulatory agency. Commissioners have agreed to divide and research administrative and policy topics to inform the body. The CCC website has upcoming meeting dates and commissioners will be holding listening sessions across the state to solicit input from a broad geographic audience over the next month. The CCC is not yet fully funded but will evolve into a robust regulatory body in order to meet its oversight obligations. Additionally, the 25 member CCC advisory board, comprised of a cross section of industry representatives and other related stakeholders meets today to begin their role as a resource to the CCC and a voice for interested parties.

The real estate development obstacles that cannabis businesses face are, perhaps, the most troublesome challenges for the nascent industry. Real estate in Massachusetts is expensive, stock suitable for this use is limited, and our zoning laws and municipal processes will pose complicated political obstacles, especially at the local level. As with the establishment of medical marijuana in Massachusetts, effectively communicating the planned development, partnering with the community and building relationships with local and state officials will be the only way to open an ideally situated cannabis business in Massachusetts. The expansion of the cannabis industry in the state will bring revenue, economic development in rapid fashion, the CCC and municipal officials need to hear from stakeholders during this formative time to make sure their decisions reflect the intent of the statute and the best interests of the Commonwealth.

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