Massachusetts Cannabis Entrepreneurs Eagerly Awaiting Draft Rules on State MMJ Program

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By Cassandra Farrington

If you’re looking to launch a medical cannabis business in Massachusetts, mark March 29 on your calendar. That’s when the state’s health department will release a draft of its proposed rules covering medical marijuana production and sales, providing a glimpse into how local officials hope to regulate the industry.

It’s a crucial step that helps put the rulemaking process on the fast track. Entrepreneurs who want to launch cannabis dispensaries, grow operations and related businesses in Massachusetts are eagerly awaiting the release of final regulations on the industry so they can move forward with their business plans. The regulations will cover everything from permits and fees to security, inventory and other aspects of running an MMJ operation.

After revealing the proposed regulations, officials will formally present them on April 10 to the Massachusetts Public Health Council, a board comprised of appointed medical professionals, policy gurus and educators. Officials will hold a public hearing on the issue April 19 and use that feedback to tweak or change the proposals. The Department of Public Health will then present its final regulations on May 8. If the council signs off on the plan, the rules could go into effect as early as May 24. The state will post the draft regulations on the MMJ portion of its website. (You can read more about its official regulatory timeline here.)

“In addition to respecting the instruction of the voters, we feel it is important to put forward these regulations into the public domain as quickly as possible, so as to allow prospective medical marijuana treatment center applicants sufficient time to study our regulations prior to engaging in a competitive application process this summer and fall,” the health department said in a letter to the council announcing the regulatory timeline.

The state’s medical cannabis industry also received good news in another area this week when state Attorney General Martha Coakley ruled that municipalities cannot pass outright bans on dispensaries. (You can read the full decision here.)

The AG did agree, however, that the communities should retain the power to regulate medical marijuana businesses within their borders, possibly extending that power to determining where they will be allowed locate. This ruling took the form of approving what is a temporary moratorium against dispensaries passed by Burlington until the municipality decides how it wishes to zone and regulate local marijuana businesses.

The willingness of the AG to strike a middle ground should be heartening to would-be dispensary owners in the state. We’ve seen state after state go too far to one side or the other with regards to regulations, in some cases throttling business opportunities and in others creating a “Wild West” atmosphere that gives the entire industry a bad name. The important role of government in providing a stable regulatory environment for marijuana business cannot be denied.

The National Cannabis Industry Association is hosting an event for MMJ entrepreneurs this weekend in Boston that will address the regulatory timeline and related issues. Medical Marijuana Business Daily Editor Chris Walsh will present some key findings from the publication’s Marijuana Business Factbook 2013, which provides a comprehensive overview of the industry from a business and financial perspective and includes exclusive state-by-state and national data.