How-To: Get a Recreational Dispensary License in Massachusetts

Weed may be legal in Massachusetts, but it still ain't easy to get a dispensary license ... yet

By Jeff Klingman, theBluntness Feature Writer

For industry observers and entrepreneurs eagerly expecting the launch of the first regulated recreational market on the U.S. East Coast, it’s been a long wait to exhale. Legal weed in Massachusetts has been cleared for almost two years, following 53% approval for a 2016 ballot initiative. Even post-election day in 2018, shops have yet to open.

The final markers of inevitability have been accumulating, though.

Retail weed in Massachusetts has been described as “a few weeks off” since the first licenses were awarded by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission early this summer.

And on Oct 7, Cultivate Holdings, an established grower and medicinal supplier, received a license for a recreational shop in Leicester (a small town of about 10,000 that’s a scenic four-hour drive from Boston). But since there are several barriers to clear before the ribbon can be cut for open doors and legal sales, that day still may be…a few weeks off.

So, while the bureaucratic slow-walk creeps on, here’s what’s needed to get into the business of Bay State bud (eventually).

Application

The initial application fee to enter the system is $1500, and if you get past the CCC’s first hurdle of scrutiny, the specific retail license needed to run a marijuana store will run you another $30K.

That formidable chunk of certified change is needed in addition to a ton of paperwork, fully-realized business plan, executive team at the ready, and a skeleton-free closet verified by background check.

Testing

An approved application is not the end of your journey.

As is customary with other recreational marijuana states, all products sold need to be tested for strength and purity by a licensed testing facility in the state. The trouble there is that approved testing facilities have been subject to the same painstaking scrutiny as the shops. Provisional licenses have been issued to two labs so far, but a final approval date remains TBD.

Tracking

In January, Massachusetts legislators approved the bid of Florida tech firm Franwell to implement their Metrc software program for the state’s “Seed-to-Sale” tracking requirements. These reqs for growers and retailers are aimed at keeping plants grown in the state off the black market. (Metrc’s already up and running in California, Nevada, Colorado, Alaska, Ohio, and Michigan.)

Some of the state’s costs of that $750K program will be defrayed by fees to licensed growers, but Metrc does host its system entirely on the web, eliminating the need for businesses to shell out for additional software.

Getting Checked Out Some More

The final step towards brick-and-mortar bud is a last physical inspection by CCC officials. Yet the roll out of this process has, surprise, also been frustratingly slow.

A recent report by the Boston Herald revealed dispensaries’ requests for inspection in July that were just being fulfilled in mid-September. These visits include both careful fine-tooth-combing of premises for security measures, as well as checks on staff members for their individual licensing.

And if you’ve cleared all that maybe, just maybe, something wicked awesome will this way come.

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