It looks like after two years of technical approval, Massachusetts is finally planning on allowing medical cannabis to go forward with the opening of the state’s first dispensary. Still, while this is great news overall for the industry, it looks like there is a long way to go before medical cannabis really gets off the ground in this region.
This major change is happening because Massachusetts just revised the rules for the state licensing process that all potential medical dispensaries have to go through in order to be open. Up until this point, the process has been very difficult, and no potential businesses have actually made it through. Still, only two dispensaries are planning to open so far in light of this new change.
Alternative Therapies Group, the first official dispensary that plans to get started in Massachusetts, has already started producing medical marijuana. The burgeoning dispensary has yet to make any public comments about their official plans, but it is rumored that they will be opening this June or July. Apparently they are almost there as far as official permission goes but will still need one final approval from the state before they can open their doors.
A few other companies have been given support at the initial stages, but do not yet have the go-ahead to begin growing. As such, it may not be until 2016 that they are actually able to open their doors to the public.
“For the industry, (the delays) have been horrific,” stated Bill Downing, who serves as the director at the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, and also as the state affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), in an interview with Marijuana Business Daily. “It’s put a huge damper on progress.”
In fact, there have been so many delays in Massachusetts that some people are thinking of giving up on medical marijuana entirely in the state, and investors are pulling out.
“With the process continuing to be delayed, coupled with the fact five other states have approved medical marijuana regulations for dispensaries, many of the investors have started to second-guess their investment thesis and turn to other attractive medical marijuana states,” stated Michael Schwartz, an analyst at Viridian Capital & Research, to Marijuana Business Daily.
The legalization movement got off to a rocky start when there were disputes about the licensing and application process from the get-go. Originally, only the few stores that were pre-approved when the ballot passed in 2012 would be allowed to sell cannabis in the state, but then businesses that wanted in but missed that initial count began filing lawsuits in order to get on board. While it is completely fair that more businesses wanted a piece of the pie rather than letting other dominate, this messed up the process for the long-run, and kept anyone from starting a dispensary.
Another hurdle being faced is the fact that Massachusetts requires all dispensaries to also be growers, due to their policy on vertical integration. So, this means that if someone just wants to be a grower or is only an entrepreneur and wants to just purchase their cannabis, this can’t happen. “Given the enormity of the regulations and security they need to put in and all of the rules they have to comply with to get everything ready,” it was bound to take a while,” stated Valerio Romano, a Boston attorney involved with the initial applicants.
Despite all of this there are more medical marijuana cardholders in Massachusetts than ever before, currently estimated at about 5000, and the state is one of the places up for recreational legalization in 2016. Regardless of all these setbacks, we are confident that legalization and medical marijuana will still be a success in this state.