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Marijuana Race - MA is Not Very Far Ahead of RI

Sunday, July 08, 2018


Charlie Baker

Nearly a year after Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed the law approving recreational use of marijuana in the Commonwealth, dozens of businesses are vying for licenses to grow, manufacture, and sell marijuana products. But the question of when exactly the substance will be widely available in retail locations around the state is a complex one.

In Rhode Island, authorizing legislation to legalize recreational marijuana died again in the Rhode Island General Assembly.

As of July 2, 63 applications have been filed with the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) by a total of 32 companies. These include separate applications for cultivation, manufacture, transportation, retail, laboratory research, and microbusinesses. So far, two of these companies have received approval from the commission for provisional licenses.

Sira Naturals, a dispensary with three locations in Cambridge, Needham, and Somerville, was approved for three licenses, allowing them to grow marijuana plants, manufacture products, and transport products to and from other licensed establishments.

Cultivate Holdings, a medical marijuana dispensary based in Leicester, has received approval for a retail sale license.


The CCC has 90 days to review a submitted application and decide whether to approve a provisional license or reject it. In order for an application to be considered complete, all necessary paperwork must be properly submitted, a third-party background check must be completed, and the city or town where the business is located must be informed or and approve it within 60 days. A completed application submitted to the commission is not guaranteed to be approved for a provisional license.

This means residents should know whether a proposed business has been approved for recreational marijuana sale or distribution within the next few months.

A full list of the 63 applications submitted to the CCC and their locations is available on the commission’s website.

Rhode Island Fails Again

In June, Rhode Island State Representative Scott Slater -- one of Rhode Island's strongest legalization supporters -- appeared on GoLocal LIVE at the Rhode Island State House where he spoke to the prospects of legalizing marijuana in Rhode Island — as Massachusetts is rolling out its program.

“Unfortunately the study commission met several times and they’ve extended the date of the study commission into next year — that’s not a good sign,” said Slater. “I don’t think we’ll get anything done this year on recreational cannabis.”

“I feel good about next year — much stronger because of the pressure that will be put on our medical marijuana program by having recreational cannabis in Massachusetts,” said Slater.

Slater said he doesn’t believe the issue needs to be studied any further. 

“We’ve had the lessons learned — we don’t need to study it any further,” said Slater. “We can probably borrow Massachusetts’ report and save us time. Some of the changes you see with cultivators around the medical program — we have more than enough capacity to support a recreational program.” But the speed in which the Commonwealth is rolling out their program might not be of much value to RI next spring.


{image_2}A Local Operation

Audrey Park, co-owner of Hothouse Holyoke, says she and her business partner were not given a specific timeline for their license approval, though they hope it will come soon.

“We submitted all the paperwork on May 31,” Park said. “We received an email from the CCC earlier this week saying our application is being processed.”

Hothouse Holyoke, when it is approved to open and begin sales, will be a microbusiness, a small mom, and pop operation providing organic, allergen-friendly craft edible marijuana products to consumers. Unlike other, already-established business, Hothouse will cater only to recreational use, not medical.

While she says the application process was lengthy, Park does not think it is overly complicated.

“There are a lot of steps involved, but it’s not impossible,” Park said. “It’s important to make sure everything is filled out properly or you’ll set yourself back in the process.”

The process was easy enough, Park added, that they were able to complete it without the help of an outside firm, which several other companies have turned to for assistance.

But the process is not complete once the CCC approves a provisional license. Companies then must turn to the individual towns and cities in which they are located for further approval. This is where many companies are facing pushback, as each town or city is entitled to create their own regulations and requirements.

In the case of Hothouse, Park says Holyoke has been quite receptive to the cannabis industry.

“It’s going to be a process,” Park said. “But unlike other areas where it’s difficult to find an area, there’s plenty of industrial zoning areas available.”

Hothouse is located inside a 5,000 square foot building on Appleton Street which used to house a paper mill. Aside from the appeal of the open space, Park says it is an ideal location because it is not located too close to any schools.

Park says the Town Council has been very helpful so far in moving things along for the fledgling business, with a special ordinance in the works to allow them to sell marijuana in the town.

“We want to get everything in order so we can open as soon as we’re approved,” Park said. “But it’s a difficult time of year. There aren’t as many meetings being held.”

On top of all the regulatory permitting, Park says they’re still looking to raise enough money to open the business. She’s confident, though, that there will be enough investors in place in time.

{image_3}When Will Recreational Marijuana Open for Business?

A major misconception surrounding recreational marijuana in Massachusetts is that massive changes will go into place overnight. Like any other large change in state law, changes will be made incrementally as cities and towns adjust and create their own ordinances and regulations for businesses.

While July 1 was the targeted date for the opening of marijuana shops in the state, there was no deadline put in place by the law.

The first businesses to receive provisional approval from the state should begin to open within the next few months, though there are no set dates or guarantees at this time.

The Cannabis Control Commission did not provide official comment for this article.


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