Massachusetts regulators voted on Tuesday to allow marijuana home delivery services and onsite consumption cafes to operate in the state. The decision by the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission was made with a vote of 4-1 by the commissioners at a meeting on Tuesday morning.
Before home delivery of cannabis can begin and marijuana consumption cafes can open, potential business owners will be required to complete agreements with the host communities where they plan to operate before being licensed by the state, a process that could take months, if not longer.
Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman said that he believes that the regulations drafted to govern cannabis delivery services and consumption cafes take the interests of various stakeholders into account.
“We feel like we have got a good balance between trying to meet the will of the voters but recognizing that there are concerns from a public health and a public safety standpoint,” said Hoffman.
But Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan, who cast the sole dissenting vote, expressed concerns about public lounges that allow the use of marijuana onsite.
“I think it’s too early for social cafe consumption licenses,” she told reporters.
“I think we need to stand up this industry, making sure the retail and cultivation and microbusinesses all get priority before we start to do home delivery and social consumption,” she added.
Flanagan also expressed concerns for public health, noting that Massachusetts is already dealing with the fallout of the opioid crisis and recently began responding to the ongoing rash of lung illnesses that have been linked to vaping and e-cigarettes.
“We talk about social consumption, we’re looking for places for people to go and consume this product, mostly by smoking or vaping,” Flanagan said. “I have concerns about that.”
Social Equity Applicants to Receive Priority
Under the rules approved by the commission, for the first two years both licenses for marijuana delivery services and cannabis consumption cafes will be reserved for applicants who qualify as social equity and economic empowerment applicants, which include businesses owned by minorities, those convicted of drug offenses, and members of communities disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.
Applicants will incur a $1,500 application fee and a charge of $10,000 to renew the license annually, although those fees are waived or reduced for social equity and economic empowerment applicants.
The regulations for delivery services include requirements that drivers wear body cameras to record all transactions while making home deliveries of cannabis products, a provision sparking concerns among privacy advocates. To address those concerns, Commissioners Shaleen Title and Britte McBride proposed at Tuesday’s meeting that law enforcement officers who wish to view the recorded footage obtain a search warrant or court order, and the commission unanimously agreed to the proposal.
“No one will be able to go in and fish through that footage,” Title said.
Hoffman said that licenses for delivery services are at least months away and that approving social consumption cafes will take even longer while a necessary change to state law is made.
Massachusetts voters legalized the recreational use of cannabis in November 2016. Legal sales of recreational marijuana began at licensed dispensaries two years later.