Recreational marijuana sales have been legal since July 1, but by law nothing can be sold until it’s tested by a licensed lab for safety. Now that two testing labs have licenses and a handful of marijuana businesses have provisional licenses, how soon will retail be a reality in Massachusetts? According to Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steve Hoffman, recreational pot shops are just around the corner. He estimates that once inspections are completed, full licenses can be granted “in the next few weeks to a month or so,” Hoffman said during an interview with Boston Public Radio Tuesday. The following is a partial transcript that has been edited for clarity.
Margery Eagan: Where are we?
Steve Hoffman: We’re getting closer, so where we’re at is … we had two provisionally licensed laboratories and we’ve issued 30 provisional licenses in total, including 11 for retail. The gap between a provisional and final license requires us to go in and actually do a physical inspection to make sure that all of our regulations are adhered to. It requires fingerprinting, it requires payment of our fees, and we are now in the process of scheduling those final inspections. Hopefully it will happen over the next couple of weeks. We’re doing the inspections because we want to make sure that everything is in place, so we can’t guarantee that everything will be in place, but presuming that when we do the inspections and everything is in place, we’ll have our staff make a recommendation to the commission to grant a final license, and that will happen, I believe, over the next few weeks to a month or so.
Jim Braude: I read you had a meeting on Sept. 20 where there might be some final approvals?
Hoffman: It’s possible, we’re scheduling the final inspections, presuming they go okay and all the other conditions of the provisional license have been met, then it’s possible.
Braude: Are these retail outlets that are going through the final stage — once, and if, obviously, you give final approval, are they ready to just open the next day?
Hoffman: They are legally allowed to open. There are a couple of things that they have to do right now, because the ones that are likely to get the final licenses are likely to be co-located medical dispensaries and adult-use retail outlets, and they’re going to need two things from the Department of Public Health: they’re going to need a waiver to allow them to move some of their current inventory from the medical system into the adult-use system, some of their plant inventory. And the second thing is, right now, to get into a medical marijuana dispensary, you need to have a medical marijuana card. For adult use, the regulation is you just need to show proof of age that you’re 21. There needs to be a little bit of modification or a waiver granted from the DPH to allow those things to happen. The DPH is working with these applicants — I assume there is not going to be an issue there.
Braude: But you’re finally able to say it’s imminent.
Hoffman: Depends on your definition of “imminent.” But yeah. I've been saying all along I thought it was going to be late summer, early fall, and I think that's still very likely to be the case.
To hear the full interview, click on the audio player above.