After years of stops and starts, the Cannabis Control Commission announced Friday that eligible applicants can now seek pre-certification and licensure as marijuana delivery operators, a business type that regulators and advocates said will be an important part of an equitable industry.

The new "marijuana delivery operator" licenses created in the new industry rules the CCC approved late last year will be available exclusively to participants in the CCC's social equity program and economic empowerment applicants for the first three years. The new license allows its holder to buy products wholesale from growers and manufacturers and deliver them to their own customers, and requires them to follow customer verification and safety regulations.

"The release of this application serves as an important step in acknowledging the excessive hurdles that many people of color and those disenfranchised face when it comes to starting a cannabis business. This license type is a major piece of the equation in making the Massachusetts cannabis industry more diverse, equitable and inclusive," Aaron Goines, president of the Massachusetts Cannabis Association for Delivery, said.

The CCC said there are 122 certified economic empowerment applicants and nearly 400 social equity program participants who are eligible for the new delivery license, which the CCC said was "created in direct response to a robust public hearing and public comment process" last year. The CCC has issued one final license and seven provisional licenses for the second prong of its delivery structure, a courier model that allows a company to charge a fee to make deliveries from CCC-licensed retailers and dispensaries.

Home delivery of marijuana has long been allowed under the state's medical marijuana program and the CCC considered and debated non-medical home delivery for about three years. Advocates argue that delivery-only licenses will help level the playing field between large corporations and small businesses because the barriers to entry for delivery are less burdensome than those for retail licenses. Some existing marijuana retailers rejected the idea and sued the CCC over its new delivery policy before dropping the suit amid backlash.

"I applaud the Commissioners, staff, and members of the public who envisioned this license type and worked hard to streamline the application and make it as accessible as possible," CCC Executive Director Shawn Collins said. "Our delivery policies and procedures will only bolster Massachusetts' reputation as a role model for states looking to incorporate equity into cannabis legalization and ensure public safety." - Colin A. Young/SHNS | 6/1/21 9:51 AM