Cannabis regulators in Massachusetts approved three new licenses for recreational weed stores yesterday, including the first one for the area of Boston. However, they have yet to consider even a single application for an independent testing facility, a mandatory requirement before any weed can go on sale in the state.
“What I am seeing is an acceleration from one meeting to the next meeting in terms of the number that we have,” said the Cannabis Control Commission’s chair, Steve Hoffman. “I am feeling like we have got a good momentum.” Yesterday, the board approved provisional licenses for retail to Alternative Therapies Group in Amesbury and to New England Treatment Access in Northampton and Brookline.
Director of New England Treatment Access, Norton Arbelaez, said that the location in Brookline is ready and waiting to open its doors as soon as officials conduct an inspection of the premises and sign off on a final approval. “We are ready for the inspection,” Arbelaez stated. “Internally, we are ready. It is just a matter of coordinating with the Cannabis Control Commission.”
Still, despite this exciting news for pot lovers in Boston, New England Treatment Access and other licensed retail stores will not be selling any cannabis until the Cannabis Control Commission licenses an independent laboratory to test it first. Under the Massachusetts law that legalized recreational ganja, all products for sale must first undergo testing for quality and safety before anybody can buy them.
Yesterday, the Cannabis Control Commission said that it has just one application from one laboratory. Recently, the agency adopted regulations temporarily to allow applications from laboratories to jump the queue, but to date, the application it has received has not even come up for consideration. This will cause major delays to consumers in Boston, who approved recreational pot so that they can use it.
“In a perfect world,” Hoffman said, “I would like to see everything up and running right now, but no, I think we will have laboratories up and running and it will be part of the way the industry is rolling out. Until we have approved labs up and running, obviously, it is an issue, but I am not concerned. I think we will get there.”
Also yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an often outspoken opponent of pot legalization who was in Boston, took a hands-off, measured approach to questions about states that have already legalized weed. “Personally, my view is that the American public will not be better if there are marijuana sales on every street corner,” he said. “But states have a right to set their own laws, and will do so.”
This new development comes a few weeks after U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling said that his office would focus on pot enforcement in Massachusetts only in cases that involve organized crime, overproduction, and sale to minors. Hoffman views Sessions’ newly softened views as good for the state, saying it may sway banks currently hesitant to work with cannabis businesses.