Nearly two years after voters legalized recreational marijuana, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission has approved the state's first commercial pot shops.
Licenses for cultivation, product manufacturing and retail sales were approved for Cultivate Holdings in Leicester and a retail license was approved for New England Treatment Access (NETA) in Northampton.
"I think it's a big milestone,” said Commission Chair Steven Hoffman. “But it's going to be a bigger one when the stores actually open."
That will likely take a few more weeks since there are several procedural steps that need to happen and there are still no laboratories approved to do the required testing of the product. Hoffman says he hopes to issue a final approval for a testing lab at the commission's next meeting later this month.
He responded to criticism that the approval process is proceeding too slowly. “We’re doing it right,” he said. “I’m very proud of the way we’re doing it. We’re being careful, we’re being thorough. In the long term, this is going to be in the best interest, I believe, of the citizens of the state of Massachusetts.”
Amanda Rositano of NETA told reporters afterward that she was satisfied with the outcome. "We understand these things take time and we're excited to get started," she said.
Commissioner Shaleen Title abstained from Thursday’s vote, saying she doesn't like the terms of the host community agreements the businesses reached with the towns. The Commission previously voted not to review host community agreements, against Title’s objection.
The agreements include a required $10,000 donation from NETA to Northampton for marijuana education and prevention programs, on top of giving the city three percent of its gross sales revenue. Title says after reading through the agreements, she can't support them.
"I cannot in good faith affirmatively vote to approve a licensee that has signed a community host agreement that at best is questionable, when it relates to the law, and it has not been reviewed."
Amanda Rositano of NETA said the company is comfortable with the agreement they’ve reached.
The commission also approved provisional licenses for Berkshire Roots in Pittsfield for cultivation, product manufacturing, product transportation, and a retail shop. They also supported several provisional licenses for 253 Organic in Montague.