United States: Massachusetts' Adult-Use Rollout Faces Potential Delays

Last Updated: September 15 2017
Article by Jesse Harlan Alderman

With changes made to the original ballot initiative, ambitious deadlines and potential challenges related to local zoning regulations, Massachusetts' newly appointed Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) has a bumpy road ahead to begin recreational sales by summer 2018, according to Jesse Alderman, attorney at Massachusetts' Foley Hoag and co-chair of the firm's marijuana practice group.

In November 2016, Massachusetts voters approved Question 4 to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state, but legislators immediately voted for changes to the original ballot initiative. After two bills were passed by the state House and Senate in June (one that would have overhauled the original ballot initiative, and another that would have kept much of the original referendum intact), state legislators agreed upon and passed a compromise bill in July that more closely reflects the original ballot initiative. But that pushed back recreational sales six months to summer 2018.

"I think the pace has been very deliberate in Massachusetts," Alderman said in an interview with Cannabis Business Times. "I think Massachusetts has been very attentive to doing this right rather than doing this quickly. Time will only tell what approach is best, but Massachusetts, I think, will distinguish itself as one of the slower states."

Alderman said the original referendum and the compromise bill both called for the establishment of the CCC tasked with regulating and enforcing the industry.

Final appointments were made to the CCC last week, which will begin accepting licensing applications on April 1, 2018, with licenses issued starting June 1. This, however, does not allow much time for the commission to put regulations in place, or for businesses to become operational.

"The CCC has to promulgate regulations to implement a licensing program by March 15, 2018, accept license applications starting April 1, 2018, and may issue the first licenses if it chooses no sooner than June 1, 2018," said Alderman. "Given that the agency is independent from any constitutional office, it's unclear how it would be held accountable if it missed these deadlines."

There is no cap on the total number of licenses issued in the state under the new legislation, however, Alderman said, "A big change [in the compromise bill] is the referendum had no limit on the number of licenses that an applicant or entity could hold. That is not the case anymore."

According to the new bill, a licensee can only hold three of each type of adult-use license, which include retailer, medical marijuana treatment center, product manufacturer and cultivator, Alderman said.

In addition, while the referendum provided a "head start" for medical marijuana businesses, the compromise bill only allows for "priority review," where adult-use license applications from entities with current medical licenses will be approved or denied before any other applications are reviewed. Initial review of priority applicants begins April 15.

Taxes and Zoning Laws

The bill also raised the tax rate on adult-use marijuana from 12 percent, outlined in the original ballot initiative, to 20 percent.

In addition, Host Community Agreements are now required under the new legislation, meaning that adult-use businesses must pay to their local municipality an "impact fee" of no greater than 3 percent of gross revenue for no more than the first five years of operation.

Another significant change, Alderman said, relates to how municipalities can control whether cannabis businesses are allowed within their boundaries. The new legislation allows local governments in towns that voted "no" on the 2016 ballot initiative to ban marijuana businesses until December 2019, while towns that voted "yes" in 2016 must vote on proposed bans on a local ballot initiative.

For cultivators and other businesses hoping to enter the state's evolving cannabis market, Alderman says it is important to pay close attention to zoning laws.

"My first piece of advice that I give to anybody looking to enter the Massachusetts market is pick a site, then pick three more, then pick five more because the local zoning has been incredibly arduous, and it's just been difficult to get through that," he said. "I hope with some of the restraints on local controls that are in the new legislation and the normalization of a cannabis market in Massachusetts that we're starting to see, ... going forward there may be some relaxation of local resistance, but I believe by far the biggest hurdle is going to be local licensing."

Alderman also said that while he does not believe the state licensing process is going to be exceptionally difficult, applicants should be prepared to undergo background checks and questioning about their investors "as part of that process," he said.

Because the state is not putting a cap on the total number of cultivation licenses or other license types issued, the licensing process should not be competitive, Alderman said, but he does have some doubts about whether the state will be prepared to accept applications by the set deadline.

"I think getting it up and running in time for an April 1, 2018 deadline to accept applications is incredibly ambitious, and that's something that people should be mindful of," he said. "We may be forced to see some delays."

Selecting Regulators

State Senator Jen Flanagan was the first CCC appointee to the board, and had been the only one until late last week, according to a Sentinel & Enterprise report.

The law calls for five commissioners: one appointed by the treasurer with a corporate management and finance background, one appointed by the governor with a public health background, one appointed by the attorney general with a public safety background and two appointed by consensus—one with a legal, policy or social justice background and one with experience in regulated industries.

RELATED: Mass. Approves $300K for Cannabis Control Commission Budget

  Last week, business executive Steve Hoffman, attorney Britte McBride, deputy general Kay Doyle and THC Staffing Group co-founder Shaleen Title joined Flanagan as appointees to the commission, per Sentinel & Enterprise. Flanagan is Gov. Charlie Baker's appointee.

"I think the governor has taken a cautious approach to the cannabis issue, but has not interfered or actively disrupted the market in any way, and I would expect that to continue," Alderman said of Baker. "His appointee to the Cannabis Control Commission, Senator Flanagan, was an opponent of Question 4, but she is also a very sensible person and one I expect more people in the industry can live with."

Alderman said that Gov. Baker's appointments to the Cannabis Advisory Board, a lesser regulating body in the state, reflected the same goal of including a variety of viewpoints, including those opposed to cannabis reform, but Alderman does not believe Baker has any intention of disrupting the rollout.

Alderman foresees many challenges ahead for the CCC, but is hopeful that the committee will meet the program's deadlines. He predicts that some of the established medical operators will be licensed for adult-use sales shortly after the first licenses are issued on June 1, 2018, but thinks it will take time before a fully mature recreational market will be operational in Massachusetts.

"I think it's going to be a big challenge for this Cannabis Control Commission, with all the oversight and enforcement responsibilities that are about to be put on its plate, to get up and running for an April 1, 2018 licensing application [start] ... but it's what the current timeline is, so hopefully they'll come as close as possible to sticking to it," he said.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
12 Oct 2018, Other, Boston, United States

The New England Electricity Restructuring Roundtable has been meeting bimonthly since 1995 to discuss current topics related to important changes in the electric power industry in Massachusetts and throughout New England.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions