Sorry, Massachusetts. Cannabis Sales Are Delayed-Again.
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The on-again, off-again July 1 start date for recreational marijuana sales in Massachusetts is now officially off again, leaving one state official apologizing to voters who approved legalization back in 2016 and expected to be able to purchase it next month.
“I understand those expectations," said Steven Hoffman, chairman of the state Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). "And I’m sorry that people have expectations that were not met. I am truly sorry about that.”
While other states came racing out of the gate to start adult-use sales after voters approved legalization, Massachusetts has hit a few snags.
The latest came this week when state officials halted the July 1 start date because they have yet to set up a testing lab for marijuana. The CCC announced it would wait until such a lab is up and running before moving forward on legalized recreational sales.
That’s important because any marijuana sold legally in the state must first be tested. The CCC formally asked staff to speed up the process for considering any applications from testing labs.
That may take until late summer or early fall.
Another frustration for cannabis professionals and consumers has been the government's snail-like pace to issue licenses. Since state legalization, the CCC has only issued one license for a marijuana grower--Sira Naturals, a cultivation facility in Milford. And that wasn’t approved until June.
The July 1 start date was first used by state legislators and later adopted by the CCC. But as the months have rolled along in 2018, it became increasingly obvious it wasn’t going to happen.
Hoffman said at the June CCC meeting that he is not going to predict when Massachusetts residents will see their 2016 vote become a reality. “I have resisted making a forecast and I will continue to resist making a forecast,” he said.
The Fate of Other November 2016 States
So how does Massachusetts stack up with the other states that approved recreational marijuana in the November 2016 elections? Let's take a quick look:
Nevada. The state had a system up and running by July 1, 2017, less than eight months after voter approval. Recreational sales reached $41 million in the month of March alone, prompting the Las Vegas Journal-Review to write: “Move over, sagebrush; Nevada might have a new state flower.” Marijuana sales have totaled $304 million since last July.
California. The Golden State started sales in January 2018, as promised by state officials. There was $339 million in sales in the first two months alone. That was actually below the estimates. Sales are expected to soar higher as more dispensaries are licensed.
Maine. You are not to be blamed for forgetting Maine legalized marijuana sales in 2016. That’s because Gov. Paul LePage vetoed the law that would have made it legal. However, state leaders continue to hammer out the rules that the governor will accept, and sales could start in spring 2019.