If you’re a marijuana consumer in Massachusetts, you may have noticed that the July 1st target date for the start of recreational sales in the state has come and is now long-passed. What once was reserved optimism has become resigned cynicism, as almost 3 months have lapsed since that target date.
Let us not forget, however, that the original target date was January 1st of this year, until it was changed by a few state legislators during the holiday recess late in 2016. At that time, some lawmakers were worried that all the regulations and bureaucracy wouldn’t be in place in time; at least in this, they were prophetic.
The bottom line is that things are still not ready. Over a dozen provisional licenses have been issued, but no final licenses have been awarded as of yet. “[W]e had two provisionally licensed laboratories and we’ve issued 30 provisional licenses in total, including 11 for retail,” said MA Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steve Hoffman on Boston Public Radio on September 11th. “The gap between a provisional and final license requires us to go in and actually do a physical inspection to make sure that all of our regulations are adhered to. It requires fingerprinting, it requires payment of our fees, and we are now in the process of scheduling those final inspections. Hopefully it will happen over the next couple of weeks.”
According to Hoffman, once a retail establishment gets their final license, they will legally be allowed to open for business, with some caveats. “There are a couple of things that they have to do right now, because the ones that are likely to get the final licenses are likely to be co-located medical dispensaries and adult-use retail outlets, and they’re going to need two things from the Department of Public Health: they’re going to need a waiver to allow them to move some of their current inventory from the medical system into the adult-use system, some of their plant inventory. And the second thing is, right now, to get into a medical marijuana dispensary, you need to have a medical marijuana card. For adult use, the regulation is you just need to show proof of age that you’re 21. There needs to be a little bit of modification or a waiver granted from the DPH to allow those things to happen.”
These quotes shed some light on why things have been delayed for so long: good old-fashioned red tape and excessive regulation. As I’ve often said, the worst thing about legalization is the fact that it has to be implemented by the government. Unlike the free marketplace, there is no other state government people in Massachusetts can turn to if they don’t like the job the current one is doing. There is no competition, and those saying “vote out everyone” in the current state government are ignoring the fact that many of these policies are implemented (or not) by unelected and practically unaccountable bureaucrats. Even if by some miracle the perfect lawmakers were found, their ability to effect real change is limited.
So cannabis consumers in Massachusetts will wait for legal sales because they have no other recourse. Until then, illegal dealers will have a pretty free hand when it comes to dominating the marketplace.