Another big barrier to the beginning of retail sales: the Cannabis Control Commission has not yet licensed any independent testing laboratories. By law, any cannabis product sold in Massachusetts must be tested by a licensed lab, and even though there are four labs licensed by the Department of Public Health for medical marijuana, a separate license from the commission must be issued for the adult-use market.
Three labs have begun the process of applying, while one has submitted all four packets of their application and is awaiting action by the commission. Still, Cusack says the industry regulators should have done more outreach to the labs to let them know early on what they needed to do.
“The Cannabis Control Commission certainly should have been working in the months before the July 1 deadline to reach out to these companies and let them know the steps they have to go through,” said Cusack.
While not responding directly to Cusack’s criticisms, Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman defended his agency’s work, and said he doesn’t think he would have done anything differently.
“I’m pretty proud of what we’ve done and how we’ve done it and how quickly we’ve done it,” Hoffman told reporters after the commission meeting on Thursday. “You know it’s hard to lose sight of the fact that nine months ago, or 10 months ago now, we started with no staff, no money and no offices, and I think we’ve accomplished a lot.”
Hoffman acknowledged the frustration many have expressed because retail stores did not open on July 1 as many had expected. The original marijuana law that voters passed by referendum in November 2016 spelled out clearly that retail sales were to begin on January 1, 2018. The Legislature initially delayed all dates in the law by six months, moving the start date for sales to July 1, 2018.
But when the Legislature re-wrote the law a year ago, that start date was removed from the language, with the law only stating the Cannabis Control Commission could not begin to issue any licenses until June 1, 2018.