No Licenses Yet, But Pot Commission ‘Working as Hard as We Can’
BOSTON — As the Cannabis Control Commission goes another week without granting marijuana business licenses, the state's chief regulator said Thursday he will be OK with having no retail shops open for a few weeks after the July 1 target date if it means avoiding a problematic rollout.
The comments from CCC Chairman Steven Hoffman came two weeks after the CCC was authorized to grant licenses and while 53 license applications are awaiting commission action. The commission has said it expects legal sales to begin July 1, though no licenses will be issued until next week at the earliest.
"I'm not going to offer forecasts other than we're working as hard as we can and we're determined to do this right. But we have, from day one, said July 1 is not a legislative mandate. It is our objective and we're going to try to meet that objective, but we're going to do it right and that continues to be the way we're operating at the commission," Hoffman told reporters after a CCC meeting Thursday.
He later added, "We're going to get it right. If that means we have few or no stores on July 1 and it takes a few more weeks, I hope and expect that everybody in the state believes that's the right thing to do. We certainly believe that's the right thing to do."
Hoffman said he expects the CCC will begin taking up license applications "soon" and when asked if July 1 could still be the first day of legal marijuana sales in the Bay State, he said, "It could be."
The chairman said he does not want the commission to rush through its review of applications to approve them ahead of July 1 in hopes of avoiding problems that have cropped up in other states as they have launched their own legal pot industries.
"Other states that rushed to hit an arbitrary deadline ended up with no inventory in some cases, ended up with no licenses in place, no background checks being done, no online inventory being done. We are not going to do that," Hoffman said.
Already, 28 entities have applied for 53 business licenses and the CCC has begun to review those applications. The review process includes a background check and a 60-day window during which the municipality in which the business hopes to locate must certify that the applicant has met all local requirements.
Executive Director Shawn Collins said Thursday that the pending pile includes 18 applications to cultivate marijuana, 17 applications for retail licenses, 12 applications to produce marijuana-infused products, three research laboratory applications, two applications from microbusinesses, and one application to transport marijuana.
He said the applications have come in from 36 registered marijuana dispensary (RMD) companies, four applicants who are part of the CCC's economic empowerment program and 13 applicants that did not receive priority review status from the commission.
"That's kind of the universe we're managing with applications and we are reviewing them all substantively or reviewing for completeness at some stage," Collins said.
Another 75 applicants have submitted at least one of four sections of the license application to the CCC, Collins said, though the commission waits until it has received all four parts of the application to begin reviewing the request.
Instead of considering license applications at its meeting Thursday, the CCC instead discussed the metrics it will publicly report as a way to assess the commission's performance, guidance the CCC will issue to businesses to clear up questions around some of the commission's regulations, and its agenda for researching the public health, public safety and societal effects of marijuana legalization.
The CCC plans to meet next on Tuesday, June 19 and could consider license applications at that time. An agenda for that meeting will be available at least 48 hours before the meeting.
--Colin A. Young, State House News Service