The first recreational marijuana retail stores are scheduled to open in Massachusetts in two months, but the head of the commission charged with getting the industry up and running says not to expect a robust retail landscape right out of the gate.
“It’s going to be sparse,” Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman says of July 1, the first day retail stores can begin selling marijuana to anyone over the age of 21.
So far, the Commission has received 813 applications for marijuana businesses, but under state law can’t begin issuing licenses until June 1. It’s already reviewing hundreds of priority applications for cannabis businesses.
How many stores will be open and selling product on July 1 isn’t yet known, even by Hoffman.
“I think it’s fair to say it’s not going to be on every street corner in every city and town in Massachusetts,” Hoffman says.
Cannabis businesses face several challenges as they look to set up shop. Before they can get a license from the commission, they need to show they have reached an agreement with the city or town in which they will be located.
Many communities have enacted moratoriums or outright bans of marijuana business. While Hoffman says it’s ultimately up to the cities and towns to decide whether to welcome cannabis businesses, he’s hopeful many will ultimately decide to allow the businesses in, now that they’ve seen what the regulations look like.
Supply is also an issue, since the only legal cultivation taking place right now is at operational Registered Medical Dispensaries, of which there are 22 up and running right now. It takes months for a cannabis plant to mature and product be ready for sale.
Hoffman says he’s hoping the existing dispensaries will sell product to other retailers, but says that’s their decision.
“I think the supply issues are going to — and I hate this bad pun — but we going to we’re going to grow out of them,” Hoffman says. “People are going to get cultivation licenses. It’s going to take however many months it takes to grow plants. We’re going to get that resolved.”