Massachusetts regulators agree to take hard look at cannabis social use sites

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In a move that could eventually open new marijuana business opportunities, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission narrowly agreed with a working group’s recommendations that the state should further explore licensing social MJ consumption sites.

The recommendations, approved 3-2 by the commission:

  • Allow for a test of social consumption sites in 12 volunteer communities, including five that participated in the working group: Amherst, North Adams, Provincetown, Somerville and Springfield. Up to seven other communities that want to participate will be chosen.
  • Grant state regulators the authority to review applications and hand out licenses in those communities for establishments such as cannabis cafes, where people could buy and consume marijuana on the premises. The plan also envisions “event host licenses” for certain one-time gatherings – an outdoor concert, for example.
  • Give municipalities discretion over the types of licenses and how many can be granted.
  • Provide opportunities for minority-owned businesses and others that have been largely excluded from the legal marijuana industry. This is listed among the “primary attributes” of the pilot program.

Data collected during the trial period will determine if – and when – social consumption sites would be allowed elsewhere in Massachusetts.

The first venues aren’t likely to spring up anytime soon. The rollout of social consumption sites could take years, if it happens at all.

The commission is seeking public input on the plan, and final regulations would have to be drafted and approved.

The Legislature must also provide at least tacit approval for the plan.

Secretary of State William Galvin has determined the state’s current marijuana law doesn’t provide a mechanism for voters in a city or town to weigh in on whether on-site consumption should be allowed in their communities.