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Massachusetts marijuana delivery license applications on track to launch in May, reserved for economic empowerment and social equity applicants

Massachusetts marijuana companies are getting closer to being able to offer delivery of retail cannabis, as some state regulators on Thursday said they believe delivery is a priority during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

But one commissioner said she was concerned about the safety of delivery amid the pandemic.

The application for a delivery license is expected to be released on May 28, Cannabis Control Commission Executive Director Shawn Collins said during the commission’s meeting on Thursday, which was live-streamed and held virtually.

For at least the first two years, the licenses, which are for third-party delivery of adult-use marijuana, will be reserved for social equity and economic empowerment applicants. Those programs are for businesses owned by minorities, people with drug convictions and people who have lived and worked in communities that were disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition.

Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan said she was apprehensive to have delivery licenses move forward in the middle of the pandemic.

“I’m uncomfortable with the timing of it,” Flanagan said. “I really think we need to take into account what’s going on at the time that this starts to happen.

“I know it’s not a popular thought to have. I’ll probably get a lot of criticism for it,” Flanagan added. “But I really think that we need to at the same time balance the health needs.”

Commissioner Shaleen Title, however, said she felt the delivery license moving forward is a top priority.

“I feel that delivery was already crucial because of the fact that we put it off because there were concerns in the beginning back in 2017. We addressed those concerns but we also made it exclusive knowing that we would have licenses where the barriers were lower,” Title said. “But now, just the entire concept of delivery is so much more relevant.”

Commissioner Britte McBride noted that marijuana sales are still happening in the illicit market and the start of retail delivery could help address that concern.

“We’re in the middle right now of uncharted territory but, we know, or suspect, that just because other people are staying at home it doesn’t mean that the illicit market is staying at home,” McBride said. “It still exists, it’s still there, it is still available, and starting to chip away at that is extremely important. I think that this provides us with a tool to start to get there and it’s important to do so.”

During the meeting, the commissioners discussed a precertification for delivery applications before they go for a provisional license. The precertification will include things like business information, tax information and insurance plans, but not things like the certification of a host community agreement or capital resources, which will be looked at for the provisional license. Collins compared the precertification to a prequalification for a mortgage.

ommissioners on Thursday took two votes concerning the delivery license: that the suitability determination for the relative parties for delivery-only license be based on applicants’ disclosures within the precertification application; and that the commission delegate the approval for precertification for delivery-only applications to the executive director.

The first motion was approved 4-1, with Flanagan voting against the motion. The second motion was approved unanimously.

Speaking to reporters following the meeting, CCC Chairman Steven Hoffman he’s hopeful the licensure can move quickly.

Last September, the CCC voted to approve regulations to will allow marijuana home delivery services, as well as for marijuana cafes, places where people will be able to go with friends to consume, smoke or vape marijuana legally.

Medical marijuana companies are already able to offer delivery. Thre are currently 18 Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers that offer the service, according to the CCC.

Amid the COVID-pandemic, the CCC has said Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers that offer delivery to patients can consider a geographic expansion of that delivery service.