Move to legalize recreational marijuana gains traction in Connecticut with election of Lamont as governor
By Thanksgiving, Massachusetts may be selling recreational pot.
The approval of two independent testing labs in Massachusetts this week heralds the start of recreational pot sales to the north, no later than Thanksgiving, one dispensary says.
“This isn’t going to get into next month,” says Norton Arbalaez, director of government affairs for New England Treatment Access, which has been planning to sell adult-use marijuana in Northampton, Mass., for more than two years. “We’re right at the precipice of this.”
Residents of Massachusetts and in its neighbors across New England have long awaited the first legal sales of recreational marijuana — something that gained traction in Connecticut this week with the election of Democrat Ned Lamont as governor. Lamont strongly favors legalization of recreational marijuana.
Massachusetts decided in December 2016 to make growing, possessing and using marijuana legal, but the budding industry slowed to a crawl as companies worked through the complex regulatory program and sought approvals from town governments. Now, Arbalaez says the wait is in its final days.
That’s in part because the Massachusetts body that regulates marijuana, the Cannabis Control Commission, gave authorization Wednesday for the first two independent laboratories to begin testing nonmedical marijuana.
MCR Labs in Framingham and CDX Analytics in Salem had to pass inspections, fingerprint lab agents and join Metrc, the state’s seed-to-sale tracking and verification system. They can begin testing recreational marijuana and marijuana products as early as Saturday, according to the CCC.
“That is certainly one of the final pieces of the puzzle,” Arbelaez, of NETA, said. “We’re at the one-yard line here and we’re excited to get up and running.”
NETA is one of two dispensaries awaiting a final inspection before it can begin offering recreational products to customers. Over recent months, the company has added close to 100 hires, for a total of about 400 employees, in anticipation of customer demand.
The other dispensary, Cultivate Holdings LLC, also has a final business license to sell non-medical marijuana. Its retail shop is
located in Leicester.
Massachusetts has issued eight other final business licenses for growing, product manufacturing, transportation, retail and testing of recreational marijuana. Another 64 provisional licenses are approved.
In Connecticut, nearly 30,000 people belong to the state’s medical marijuana program, up from 2,000 when it began in 2014.
Lamont predicts non-medical marijuana could become legal within the first legislative cycle.
Current penalties for marijuana use are “unevenly applied,” disproportionately affecting people of color, he said during the campaign. Revenue from retail sales could also fund treatment for opioid dependency, he’s suggested.
The state legislature’s non-partisan fiscal office estimated sales would reach $30 million the first full year of legalization.
Lamont floated the idea of funding treatment for opioid dependency with revenues from retail marijuana sales.
“I’ll regulate it,” he said in October. “I’ll be careful in terms of quality or potency. I think we know what we’re doing. It’s better than having the black market control that.’’
A humidity indicator rests in a bowl of a strain of cannabis called “Walker Kush” at the dispensary.