By Rick Schettino • March 14, 2019

Massachusetts Cannabis Regulations: License Applications, Forms, Links, and Other Resources

The state of Massachusetts operates both medical and recreational cannabis programs. Recreational marijuana is regulated and taxed but legal in Massachusetts, with retail sales from licensed dealers becoming legal on November 20, 2018. Legalization occurred in staging, with decriminalization followed by legal medical marijuana before full legalization.

Medical Marijuana in Massachusetts

In 2012, Massachusetts 63% of Massachusetts voters approved a medical marijuana initiative “Question 3,” making Mass. the eighteenth state to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana.

The compassionate use law, which took effect on January 1, 2013, eliminated criminal and civil penalties for the possessions and use of up to a 60-day supply of marijuana for patients possessing a state-issued registration card. The law allowed for 35 state-licensed non-profit dispensaries.

After the law passed, many Mass. cities and towns attempted to ban dispensaries. Attorney General Martha M. Coakley ruled that cities and towns can only regulate dispensaries but not ban them.

Recreational Marijuana in Massachusetts

In of 2016, four years after voters approved a medical marijuana program, a recreational marijuana ballot initiative, “Question 4,” was passed making recreational cannabis legal in the state.

In December of 2016, Governor Charlie Baker signed legislation which extended the start date for recreational cannabis sales by six months, to July 2018. The ban eventually lasted 8 months.

Lawmakers passed recreational legislation in July of 2017.  State statute G.L. Ch. 94G permits individuals to carry up to 1 ounce on their person and have up to 10 ounces in their home.

The recreational marijuana industry in Massachusetts was initially overseen by the Department of Health. In December of 2108, the Mass. Cannabis Control Commission took over the administration of the industry. The CCC is responsible for promulgating regulations relating to marijuana, processing business applications and issuing licenses, and creating policies and procedures which “promote and encourage full participation in the regulated marijuana industry by people from communities that have previously been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement and to positively impact those communities.”

In March 2018, The Boston Globe reported that 189 of the 351 Massachusetts cities and towns had either indefinitely or temporarily banned retail marijuana stores.

A 10.75% excise tax is in place for recreational sales, on top of the general 6.25% state sales tax, and up to a 3% local option tax, for a total of 17%-20% tax. The excise tax was unilaterally increased by Treasurer Deborah Goldberg to 10.75% from the 3.75% approved by voters in the language of the ballot question.

Although recreational sales technically became legal o July 1, 2018, no recreational products were yet available. The first recreational cultivation license was granted on Jun 21, 2018. Because new licensees were required to wait for approval before planting, existing medical dispensaries that expanded into recreational sales had a competitive advantage.

The first two recreational stores did not open in Mass. until November 20, 2018, after testing labs had begun operations. During the first week of sales, excluding Thanksgiving Day where both locations were closed, sales totaled more than $2.2 million between the two locations.

The following month, the Cannabis Control Commission approved licenses for retail stores in Salem, Easthampton, and Wareham, and Cannabis Control Commission Chair Steven Hoffman estimated that the state would begin to see four to eight new retail stores opening each month.

Between November 20, 2018 and January 20, 2019, consumers purchased nearly $24 million worth of recreational marijuana products. The state has taken in about $4 million in tax revenue.

As of late January 2019, nine stores were licensed to sell recreational marijuana in Mass.

Cannabis Advisory Board

The Cannabis Advisory Board, established by Chapter 55 of the Acts of 2017 has twenty-five members: five appointees each from the governor, treasurer and attorney general and ten ex offiicio members with expertise and knowledge relevant to the Board’s mission. The board is charged with studying and making recommendations to the Cannabis Control Commission on the regulation and taxation of marijuana in Massachusetts.

Cannabis Advisory Board Subcommittees

Cannabis Industry

Make recommendations regarding cultivation, processing, manufacturing, transportation, distribution, seed-to-sale tracking and market stability

Market Participation

Develop recommendations on women, minority and veteran-owned businesses, local agriculture and growing cooperatives.

Public Safety & Community Mitigation

Develop recommendations on law enforcement, property, business, and consumer issues.

Public Health

Develop recommendations on products, labeling, marketing, advertising, related public health issues, potency, and packaging.

Mass. Cannabis Control Commission

The Mass. Cannabis Control Commission, established by Chapter 55 of the Acts of 2017, is responsible for regulating the state’s recreational marijuana industry.

The commission has five members consisting of one appointee each from the governor, treasurer and attorney general, and two members agreed upon by the majority of those three constitutional officers.

The stated mission of the Cannabis Control Commission is to “honor the will of the voters of Massachusetts by safely, equitably and effectively implementing and administering the laws enabling access to medical and adult use marijuana in the Commonwealth.”

The Commission will foster the creation of a safely regulated industry that will create entrepreneurial and employment opportunities and incremental tax revenues in and to communities across the state and which will be a best practice model for other states. The industry will be characterized by participation by small and larger participants and with full and robust participation by minorities, women and veterans. We will develop policies and procedures to encourage and enable full participation in the marijuana industry by people from communities that have previously been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement and positively impact those communities.

CCC Operating Principles

The CCC has developed a set of operating principles which are outlined as follows:

The Commission promises to:

  • Conduct all of our processes openly and transparently

  • Engage in regular two – way communication with all concerned citizens, patients, health care providers and caregivers, partners and other constituencies

Build a world-class state agency by:

  • Committing to the highest level of constituent services using state of the art technology and multiple media;

  • Defining and publicly measure our performance versus metrics regarding timely execution, accessibility, impact on public health and safety, impact on disproportionately harmed communities and incremental tax revenue generation;

  • Becoming self-funding and generating a revenue surplus; and

  • Creating a great place to work.

Enhance and ensure public health and safety by:

  • Developing and enforcing effective regulations;

  • Developing and executing a program of continuing public education;

  • Conducting and contributing to research on marijuana-related topics; and

  • Using surplus funds to help address issues in these areas.

Mass. Commission Chairs

Leadership Team

Mass. Social Equity Programs

In order to promote social equity in the cannabis industry, the Mass. CCC is responsible for implementing programs to actively engage people from communities of disproportionate impact and ensure their inclusion in the industry.

The Social Equity Program is a pathway for individuals and businesses that wish to build, enter, and support a robust adult-use cannabis marketplace.

Goals of the Social Equity Progam

  • Reduce barriers to entry in the commercial cannabis industry;

  • Provide professional, technical services, and mentoring for those facing systemic barriers; and

  • Promote sustainable, socially, and economically reparative practices in the commercial adult-use marijuana industry in Massachusetts.

Eligibility for Social Equity Program

Applicants or licensees are eligible for the social equity program if they demonstrate at least one of the following criteria:

  1. Residence in an area of disproportionate impact for at least 5 of the past 10 years and an income that does not exceed 400% of the Federal Poverty Level;

  2. A past drug conviction and residence in Massachusetts for at least the preceding 12 months; or

  3. Married to or the child of a person with a drug conviction and residence in Massachusetts for at least the preceding 12 months.

Social Equity Track Overview:

These tracks are based on an applicant’s specific interests in the cannabis industry, their current skills, and the outcomes they are seeking to gain from the program.

  • Entrepreneur - Those seeking licensure and ownership

  • Core - Those interested in cannabis careers at Marijuana Establishments at the managerial and executive level

    • Core Experienced Candidates (2-6 years)

    • Core Professional Candidates (7+ years)

  • Re-Entry & Entry - Those interested in entry-level positions within Marijuana Establishments

    • Re-entry level Candidates (re-entering society)

    • Entry-level Candidates (0-2 years)

  • Ancillary - Those with existing skills that are directly transferable to working with or supporting cannabis businesses. Inventors and developers of new cannabis accessories and tools.

Call for Social Equity Program Vendors

The Mass. CCC is seeking vendors to provide training and technical assistance to participants of Massachusetts’ first-in-the-nation statewide Social Equity Program. Respond to the Commission’s procurement below.

Mass. Social Equity Program Resources

Licensing

The Mass. CCC operates the Cannabis Industry Portal (MassCIP). All license applicants must create an account on the portal.

Mass. Cannabis Business Licensing Requirements

Below are some of the overarching requirements for being awarded a license to operate a cannabis business in the state of Massachusetts.

  • Mass. cities and towns may require permits, set zoning regulations, and even ban cannabis sales altogether. (However, if the majority of voters in the municipality were in favor of the statewide Question 4, a ban must be approved by a local referendum.)

  • Retail applicants are required to hold a community meeting and negotiate an agreement with the host municipality in order to be awarded a license by the state. As of March 2018, 59 municipalities had enacted a permanent ban.

  • Both medical and recreational marijuana businesses must also negotiate a Community Host Agreement with the city or town in which it is located. Cities and towns are permitted to assess a community impact fee of up to 3% of the business's annual revenue. The agreement may be in place for no more than 5 years. However, towns and cities throughout Massachusetts have not followed these requirements.

Mass. CCC Contact Information

Address: 101 Federal Street, 13th Floor, Boston, MA 02110

Office hours: Open M-F 9:00 am - 4: 30 pm

Phone: (617) 660-5370

Email: MedicalMarijuana@state.ma.us

Massachusetts Cannabis Laws

Mass. Cannabis Regulations

The regulation links below are “unofficial and for informational purposes only.”

The official versions are the printed version which can be obtained for purchase at the State Bookstore.

Mass. CCC News and Announcements

Mass. CCC offers constant updates on commission activities, legislation, events, milestones, etc.

Additional Mass. CCC Resources

Cannabis Control Commission Public Documents

Cannabis Control Commission, Cannabis Advisory Board, and subcommittee meeting notices and documents can be found here:

Mass. CCC Guidance Documents

Mass. CCC Frequently Asked Questions

Mass. CCC maintains a list of frequently asked questions and answers regarding laws governing adult-use marijuana in Massachusetts.

Marijuana Establishments Authorized to Commence Operations

Last Updated 3/13/19

NAME

LICENSE NUMBER

LICENSE TYPE

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Alternative Therapies Group

MR281255

Retailer

Alternative Therapies Group Executive Summary

Caroline’s Cannabis

MR281274

Retailer

Caroline’s Cannabis, LLC Executive Summary

CDX Analytics

IL281275

Independent Testing Laboratory

CDX Analytics Executive Summary

Cultivate Holdings

MC281266

Cultivation, Tier 2 – Indoor Operation

Cultivate Holdings Executive Summary

Cultivate Holdings

MP281305

Product Manufacturer

Cultivate Holdings Executive Summary

Cultivate Holdings

MR281268

Retailer

Cultivate Holdings Executive Summary

I.N.S.A.

MC281268

Cultivation, Tier 7 – Indoor Operation

I.N.S.A. Executive Summary

I.N.S.A.

MP281426

Product Manufacturer

I.N.S.A. Executive Summary

I.N.S.A.

MR281680

Retailer

I.N.S.A. Executive Summary

MCR Labs

IL281278

Independent Testing Laboratory

MCR Labs Executive Summary

New England Treatment Access

MC281267

Cultivation, Tier 6 – Indoor Operation

New England Treatment Access Executive Summary

New England Treatment Access

MP281306

Product Manufacturer

New England Treatment Access Executive Summary

New England Treatment Access

MR281240

Retailer

New England Treatment Access Executive Summary

Northeast Alternatives, Inc.

MC281319

Cultivation, Tier 1 – Indoor Operation

Northeast Alternatives Executive Summary

Northeast Alternatives, Inc.

MP281319

Product Manufacturer

Northeast Alternatives Executive Summary

Northeast Alternatives, Inc.

MR281314

Retailer

Northeast Alternatives Executive Summary

Patriot Care

MC281265

Cultivation, Tier 6 – Indoor

Patriot Care Corp Executive Summary

Patriot Care

MP281308

Product Manufacturer

Patriot Care Corp Executive Summary

Patriot Care

MR281281

Retailer

Patriot Care Corp Executive Summary

Pharmacannis Massachusetts d/b/a Verilife

MR281252

Retailer

Pharmacannis Executive Summary

Revolutionary Clinics

MC281507

Cultivation, Tier 8 – Indoor

Revolutionary Clinics Executive Summary

Revolutionary Clinics

MP281425

Product Manufacturer

Revolutionary Clinics Executive Summary

Sanctuary Medicinals

MC281308

Cultivation, Tier 5 – Indoor

Sanctuary Medicinals Executive Summary

Sanctuary Medicinals

MP281405

Product Manufacturer

Sanctuary Medicinals Executive Summary

Sanctuary Medicinals

MR281650

Retailer

Sanctuary Medicinals Executive Summary

Temescal Wellness

MR281309

Retailer

Temescal Wellness Executive Summary

Temescal Wellness

MR281588

Retailer

Temescal Wellness Executive Summary

Temescal Wellness

MC281550

Cultivation, Tier 2 – Indoor

Temescal Wellness Executive Summary

Temescal Wellness

MP281402

Product Manufacturer

Temescal Wellness Executive Summary

Theory Wellness

MR281549

Retailer

Theory Wellness Executive Summary