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Massachusetts Regulators Are Not Ready for Social Cannabis Use Just Yet


When a state legalizes cannabis there is a lot more that must happen after voters or lawmakers approve the law. A regulatory body is put in place and often spends months coming up with regulations and licensing processes. Then, they must still go through the process of actually licensing businesses before they can open and operate. For some states, this takes longer than others. And for many, it has left a number of issues on the back burner – especially social consumption.

The state of Massachusetts is one of those states that has continued to delay legal sales time and time again – with the anticipated start still weeks away and the deadline long passed. However, even with legal sales finally around the corner, things like social consumption venues are still “years away”, according to the Cannabis Control Commission.

“There is no workable process currently under the law by which a city or town can allow this, and that needs to happen before a facility can open,” Title said. “So I would say it’s a matter of years and right now there would need to be a change in the legislation before cities and towns can move forward.”

There are several things getting in the way of social consumption in the state – aside from the possible restriction that would only allow vaping and edibles in public spaces. The biggest hurdle is the fact that while the CCC is given authority over social consumption as it was included in the voter-approved law, the law also requires individual cities and counties to “opt-in” to allow such venues. To opt-in, voters must approve social consumption via referendum – but there is no process under current laws for a local referendum to be petitioned in the first place.

“There will be social consumption, eventually. Twenty percent of the public uses marijuana, they have ways that they use it, this is not some new scary group of people that’s going to start doing some new scary thing,” Title said, noting that she saw a “ganja yoga” event listed in an events calendar email Tuesday morning. “This is something that’s happening … In 10 years this is going to be as normal as when you go to the Boston Common and see a movie and you can buy a drink. But it’s not happening tomorrow.”

The Cannabis Control Commission is talking about holding off on social consumption for a while, waiting to see how other places that have legalized cannabis will address this issue. Denver currently allows local businesses to obtain a license to allow patrons to bring their own edibles or allow them to vape on the premise, and some places in California allow “tasting rooms” attached to dispensaries. Las Vegas is considering hookah-lounge type businesses that would operate next to dispensaries.

A decision is expected by the CCC in early 2019 when it comes to whether they will continue holding off on social consumption, or if they plan to find a way to work it in sooner. However, from the looks of it, this is an issue they seem to be waiting on for the time being.