How to Open a Dispensary In Massachusetts

It’s now one of the most exciting times for future Dispensary Owners in the state of Massachusetts. Following a highly-anticipated vote on the Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Initiative also known as Question 4 received 53.57% of votes and officially passed!  As an entrepreneur you’re first reaction is probably, “Fantastic, now tell me how to open a dispensary in Massachusetts!”

The historic vote on Question 4 is exciting for many, and we are eager to see the actual law and application process be revealed in the coming weeks as the law takes effect on December 15, 2016.  Like you, we are thrilled by this news, we will keep a close watch on any updates to the new legislation and provide any information in the Complete Dispensary Package within days of the application information being released. Let’s dive in and have a look at what Question 4 actually says.

How to open a dispensary in Massachusetts

What Does Question 4 Say?

We are paraphrasing the high-level details as the official petition is 25 pages.  Should you want to dive in, you can find the full text here.

  • People 21 and over are legally permitted to possess, use, distribute and cultivate certain amounts of marijuana
  • Criminal penalties would be removed for these people
  • People 21 and over can possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside their residence
  • People 21 and over can possess up to ten ounces of marijuana inside their residence
  • People 21 and over can grow up to six marijuana plants inside their residence
  • People 21 and over can give one ounce or less of marijuana to a person at least 21 years old without payment
  • Question 4 creates a Cannabis Control Commission of three members appointed by the state Treasurer which would generally administer the law governing marijuana use and distribution, promulgate regulations, and be responsible for the licensing of marijuana commercial establishments.
  • Question 4 also creates a Cannabis Advisory Board of fifteen members appointed by the Governor. The Cannabis Control Commission would adopt regulations governing licensing qualifications; security; record keeping; health and safety standards; packaging and labeling; testing; advertising and displays; required inspections; and such other matters as the Commission considers appropriate. The records of the Commission would be public records.
  • Cities and towns can adopt reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of operating marijuana businesses
  • Cities and towns can limit the number of marijuana establishments in their communities.
  • Cities and towns can hold a local vote to determine whether to permit the selling of marijuana and marijuana products for consumption on the premises at commercial establishments.
  • Retail sales of marijuana and marijuana products will be subject to the state sales tax and an additional excise tax of 3.75%.
  • Cities and towns can impose a separate tax of up to 2%.
  • Revenue received from tax or from license application fees and civil penalties for violations of this law would be deposited in a Marijuana Regulation Fund and would be used subject to appropriation for administration of the proposed law.
  • Marijuana-related activities authorized under this proposed law could not be a basis for adverse orders in child welfare cases absent clear and convincing evidence that such activities had created an unreasonable danger to the safety of a minor child.
  • The proposed law would not affect existing law regarding medical marijuana treatment centers
  • The proposed law would not affect existing law regarding the operation of motor vehicles while under the influence.
  • Property owners can prohibit the use, sale, or production of marijuana on their premises (with an exception that landlords cannot prohibit consumption by tenants of marijuana by means other than by smoking);
  • Employers can prohibit the consumption of marijuana by employees in the workplace.
  • State and local governments can continue to restrict uses in public buildings or at or near schools.
  • Supplying marijuana to persons under age 21 will be against the law.
  • Marijuana businesses must be located at least 500 feet from public or private schools providing K-12 education.

Application Procedures and Fees:

Application, license and renewal fees in Massachusetts have been set at what the state deems an amount necessary to pay for all regulation and enforcement costs of the commission.  However, Question 4 does set limits for application fees and renewals. We’re not sure what they will be exactly at this point.

Fees may not exceed:

  • For an initial application, $3,000
  • For a license for a retail marijuana store, $15,000
  • For a license for a marijuana product manufacturer, $15,000
  • For a license for a marijuana cultivator, $15,000
  • For a license for a marijuana testing facility, $10,000

The law will have requirements for the security of marijuana establishments, including security, lighting, video and alarm requirements.  The law will also regulate to ensure secure transportation and storage of marijuana, marijuana plants and marijuana products.  These are all conditional requirements as long as they don’t prohibit the cultivation of marijuana outdoors or in greenhouses.

When the Cannabis Control Commission receives a completed marijuana establishment license application and the fee it will be forwarded to city where the business will be located.  The city then has 90 days to issue the license or send the applicant a rejection notice with the reasons outlining why the commission didn’t approve the application.

There will also be preference given until January 1, 2018, where the commission will issue licenses with preference to applicants with the most experience operating medical marijuana treatment centers.  After those qualified licenses are given out, they will then be distributed by lottery among the other qualified applicants.

License terms will be one year, and renewal will be issued within 30 days for businesses submitting applications and fees that are in good standing and have filed the necessary tax returns.

What Can I Do Today to Start the Process of Opening a Dispensary in Massachusetts?

So the law will be enacted on December 15, 2016.  There are still some unknowns about when the licensing process will be made available to the public and what the fees will look like.  There is a list of things you can get working on right now to make sure you are in a great position to open a recreational cannabis dispensary in Massachusetts. First things first, get our free download to see what it takes to Get Started and Get Approved. Next, you can also begin to get your business plan ready.  That will open the door for investors to ensure you have the capital necessary to make your dispensary financially solvent.

Don’t want to waste any time?  You can get all the information in one spot.  We’ve already organized all the information you need to get licensed in this extremely lucrative segment. Really, you don’t have to wait for legislation to be finalized, get started immediately! We’ll be updating the procedures for how to open a dispensary in Massachusetts as soon as they’re in place.