Adults In Massachusetts Can Legally Buy Marijuana Starting Today
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Call it a really soft opening of historic proportions. The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission quietly gave the go-ahead for two medical marijuana dispensaries to begin adult recreational marijuana sales, starting this morning.
The two dispensaries -- Cultivate Holdings in Leicester and New England Treatment Access in Franklin -- are already dispensing medical marijuana and have made renovations to separately accommodate recreational customers, according to news reports. The two dispensaries are far to the west of Boston, the state's largest city, but nonetheless will make history as the first places to legally sell marijuana recreationally in the eastern United States.
In a 2016 referendum Massachusetts voters approved Question 4, authorizing adult sales to commence Jan. 1, 2018, but the Legislature delayed the start of sales until July 1 of this year, which was further delayed by a painstaking regulatory rollout. The Cannabis Control Commission sounded more resigned than celebratory in a press release that warned people to consume responsibly in the same sentence it announced sales to adults.
“This signal to open retail marijuana establishments marks a major milestone for voters who approved legal, adult-use cannabis in our state,” Commission Chairman Steven J. Hoffman said in the release. “To get here, licensees underwent thorough background checks, passed multiple inspections, and had their products tested, all to ensure public health and safety as this new industry gets up and running. As patrons look forward to visiting Massachusetts stores, we hope they will do their part by first familiarizing themselves with the law and understanding what is required of responsible consumers.”
The bureaucratic foot-dragging has not dampened the enthusiasm of legalization activists. “We can rightfully squawk about state delays and problematic local opposition, but the fact remains that we are the first state east of the Mississippi to offer legal, tested cannabis to adult consumers in safe retail settings,” Jim Borghesani of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group that successfully backed for passage of Question 4, told the Hartford Courant.
It appears Massachusetts will hold the distinction of being the only east coast state with legal marijuana sales for awhile. Maine votes approved legalization in the 2016 election but the governor vetoed legislation to implement the referendum results. The Legislature eventually overrode the veto but setting up a regulatory structure has been slow going. The Legislature recently solicited proposals from cannabis regulatory consultants and there is no definite date for sales to begin. Lawmakers in New Jersey have been considering legislation to legalize marijuana for more than a year but, despite the election of a governor eager to end prohibition, the bill has languished.