Two More Massachusetts Towns Considering Cannabis Dispensary Moratoriums as DPH Regulations Are Readied

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By Anne Holland

The Massachusetts towns of Natick (pop. 33k) and Marlborough (pop. 38k) are both considering joining several other cities in implementing moratoriums or outright bans on cannabis dispensaries. The goal: give these towns enough time to craft local regulations after the Massachusetts Department of Health releases its final rules on May 1.

Natick’s proposed moratorium delays dispensaries until May 1, 2014. The measure is being voted on at a town meeting tonight at 7:30 pm. Marlborough’s moratorium would prohibit openings until sometime in the summer of 2014. The town held a public hearing on Monday night where reportedly not one member of the public or town council had any questions or comments about the measure. Both towns are in Middlesex County, which is one of the wealthiest counties in the US in terms of millionaires per capita.

The proposed delays reflect a national trend that belies the hype behind medical marijuana. As many would-be entrepreneurs are learning, legalizing medical marijuana is just the first step in what can be a several-year process to actually get MMJ dispensaries up and running.

Massachusetts voters approved dispensaries last November, but the Department of Health’s final regulations are not due to be released for another week. The public comment period in response to its draft regulations just ended on April 20.

Massachusetts-based entrepreneurs such as Curtis Gibson – executive director of Bay State Cannabis Company, which incorporated as a non-profit at the start of this year – are waiting for the announcements with a degree of wariness. Gibson told MMJ Business Daily he is not enthused that out-of-state applicants may be considered – and may indeed have an edge in the license application process due to experience considerations. However, the situation has led him to consider out-of-state partnerships as well as ancillary business opportunities such as providing extraction or testing equipment and services to licensed dispensaries in the state.

Nevertheless, his first choice is to open a dispensary in Massachusetts. “I’ve put my life savings on the line.  I may regret it; I may go to federal prison. But, it’s meaningful work. Assuming we get a license, I fully expect to open up in six to twelve months. If we don’t get a license in this go-round, we can wait and make an application next year.” He added, “I’m not sure the first applications that are accepted are the one that will be leading the industry five years from now in Massachusetts. Running a business is hard and I’m not sure all the folks have the constitution for it.”