Massachusetts is inching ever closer to making its first legal weed sale. Its Cannabis Control Commission finally gave preliminary approval to two recreational cannabis-testing laboratories. However, before legal pot sales can actually start, the state must still take still a few other important steps. Since voters approved recreational marijuana in 2016, delay after delay has beset the state.
On Thursday afternoon, the Cannabis Control Commission gave provisional approval to two testing centers, namely MCR Laboratories in Framingham and CDXAnalytics in Salem. Although, under the auspices of the Department of Health, both laboratories have been testing medical cannabis for some time already, they still needed approval from the commission in order to test recreational weed.
The extremely positive vote on Thursday, which was long overdue, finally removes a major obstacle to getting the state’s recreational marijuana industry off the ground, since, under the law, no sales could occur until a laboratory was able to test all the products for sale first. More needs to happen urgently, however, before legal sales can truly get underway:
According to the Commission’s rules, it must first inspect both dispensaries and laboratories before recreational sales can start. However, how long that will take remains a major mystery. If the state’s medical cannabis program is anything to go by, it can take several long weeks just to schedule an appointment with an inspector.
Additionally, given the very lengthy list of complicated requirements, dispensaries then need to make several corrections and have an inspector come back again afterward, explained Kris Krane, a pot consultant who is working with numerous dispensaries in Massachusetts. “It takes a few weeks to come in and it is a lengthy list of things to check,” he said.
Before sales can begin, the state must still rollout its “seed-to-sale” software, which will make use of RFID tracking tags to identify and locate every cannabis plant and bud, from its inception until its sale, whether in flower form or concentrated products, such as edibles and oils. Massachusetts has a contract in place with software firm Metrc, short for Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting Compliance.
Developed by Franwell Incorporated, a supply-chain software developer based in Florida, Metrc is the same software that regulators in most other legal states are using, as well, including Washington, D.C., California, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Michigan. Once set up, it will track all seeds, all plants, all products, and all sales.
Medical Cannabis Transfer
Although the commission will be regulating both medical and recreational cannabis as of January 1 next year, completely different entities are currently overseeing the two markets. The Department of Public Health is regulating medical weed, and the commission is responsible for supervising the recreational industry. This issue will cause complications and the state wants to merge the two.
The Department of Public Health issued specific guidelines saying that 45 percent of medical crops can go toward supplying the recreational market. However, how exactly it plans to do that may prove challenging. Charles Smith, a pot lawyer with Mass Canna Compliance based in Boston, said, “I think one of the major hurdles is the cooperation between the Department of Public Health and the commission, and how that is implemented.”
Among the issues is which plants can transition, whether they include those in the final products, those in their early stages of life, or a combination of all of them. “Obviously, the Department of Public Health’s concern is to ensure there is adequate supply for the patients,” Smith explained. “I think they are conflicted in that matter. By utilizing that amount, it will allow them to try to balance that problem at least.”