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A New Approach On Cannabis Cafes?


A New Approach on Cannabis Cafes


Marijuana regulators made a significant decision on Monday, opting to abandon previous plans for a limited pilot program involving cannabis cafes and social consumption sites in 12 municipalities. The move is expected to expedite the implementation of voter-approved initiatives in the cannabis industry.

The decision comes nine months after a state law outlined the process for cities and towns to authorize on-site consumption of marijuana products. The Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) has now shifted away from previous regulations that restricted the launch to only a few locations.

The CCC staff will now focus on developing a regulatory framework that grants licenses to establishments where customers can both purchase and enjoy marijuana products on the premises. This approach differs from existing retail stores that have been operational for years.

Commissioner Nurys Camargo, a member of the working group that recommended the change, stated that dropping the pilot program encourages municipalities to decide whether they will opt-in to social consumption. Additionally, it allows regulators to address long-term industry questions instead of focusing on the limited pilot program's operations.

Camargo emphasized that although the new approach will expedite the process, the implementation of social consumption will still take time. She highlighted the need to define the regulatory framework, licensing requirements, and the overall structure of social consumption, especially now that the pilot program has been eliminated.

Eliminating the pilot program will prevent potential delays caused by licensing regulations, which could have extended the process by several years. Commissioner Ava Callendar Concepcion, Commissioner Nurys Camargo, Commissioner Bruce Stebbins, and CCC Chair Shannon O'Brien voted in favor of removing the pilot program language from the recreational marijuana regulations.

While supporting the change, CCC Chair Shannon O'Brien expressed concerns about the broader regulations, particularly in relation to the risks of secondhand smoke, impairment, and ensuring business success for equity applicants, microbusinesses, and craft cooperatives during the initial 36-month exclusivity period.

Commissioner Kimberly Roy abstained from voting, citing insufficient information regarding public safety, public health, and equity impacts. She stressed the importance of avoiding potential setbacks that could arise despite the best intentions behind initiatives such as the delivery operator, microbusinesses, and craft cooperative farmers.

The ballot question approving recreational marijuana use, which voters passed in 2016, included language authorizing on-site consumption at the point of sale and at licensed events. However, cannabis cafes have yet to open to the public nearly seven years later.

In 2018, regulators slowed down the rollout due to concerns raised by then-Governor Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey. Governor Baker had also attempted to revamp the state's drugged-driving laws but encountered resistance in the Legislature.

In 2019, the CCC's working group recommended launching social consumption through a pilot program, but it was determined that the Legislature needed to update state law to enable cities and towns to authorize on-site cannabis use. These changes were incorporated into a comprehensive law signed by Governor Baker last year, which also increased oversight on host community agreements between marijuana businesses and municipalities.

Commissioner Bruce Stebbins, who served on the social consumption working group, stated that implementing a pilot program under the new law would be burdensome and expensive. Consequently, the CCC decided that eliminating the pilot program would allow them to focus on building a comprehensive licensing and regulatory framework.

Make sure to follow for more news about developments in the Cannabis field. 

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