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Running a retail cannabis business can be taxing if you don’t know what you’re doing. Any small business requires a level of professionalism, but a cannabis business is unique in that the laws of each state, county, and even city differ across the U.S.
Without a consensus, even a seasoned pro in one state will still have to study up on other states, and even once you get the hang of a state’s laws, they can quickly change at any given election. Here’s everything you need to know about operating a compliant cannabis business in Massachusetts, and the state’s cannabis laws.
Yes, medical marijuana was legalized in 2012 through the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative, which took effect the following year. Recreational cannabis was legalized in the 2016 election and became effective July 1, 2018.
Licenses are issued by the Cannabis Control Commission. Four license types are available: Retail marijuana stores, marijuana product manufacturers, marijuana cultivators, and marijuana testing facilities. The CCC is slowly reviewing applications and issuing provisional licenses.
An online application is available in the state’s MassCIP system. It will walk you through the full application process, including any supporting documentation and registration fees. Applications are then evaluated during the commission’s regularly scheduled meetings. Experienced medical marijuana businesses are given priority, followed by a lottery to determine licensees. Licenses have been very slow to be issued in the state.
Cost varies up to $3000 for each license except retail marijuana store licenses, which cost $15,000 to apply. You’ll also need to obtain any applicable state and local business licenses.
Yes – the fees above are annual fees.
A Registered Marijuana Dispensary Certificate of Registration (wordy, right?) is needed to sell medical marijuana in Massachusetts. A retail marijuana store license (application link above) is needed to sell recreational marijuana.
Yes – in fact, it gives you a better chance of being selected, as you bypass the general lottery system in a priority queue.
It’s best to check with your local city and state government for requirements prior to applying for a state license. Over 200 townships in Massachusetts won’t allow marijuana businesses to operate within their borders.
Each city is different, so check with local legislators. There are no statewide rules regarding cannabis events, except that public consumption is forbidden.
The location of your cannabis events determines which license you’ll need to pursue. If you’re attending an event like a High Times Cannabis Cup or Massachusetts Grower Advocacy Council’s Harvest Cup, you’re actually a vendor at that event.
Holding your own offsite events puts you in a High Times position where you need to file the proper city and county licenses. Work with the venue to ensure this is completed in a timely manner.
Yes, you can hold more than one license of any type. You can hold events on your premises, host offsite events, or attend offsite events proudly representing your business.
Reading, understanding, and consistently applying Massachusetts state cannabis regulations is essential. During the application process, your entire organization will be tested on compliance competency.
Also track everything. Record every interaction. Have every dollar, plant, and product tracked from seed to sale. A solid POS that can automatically interface with the state’s tracking system is only the start of what you’ll need to stay compliant.
Required cannabis business security measures will cost at least $100,000. Video surveillance, security lighting, transportation and waste disposal processes, platforms, and procedures need to be in place from day one.
Cloud video data storage will be a significant cost for startup businesses. Plan ahead for this.
It’s a funny question, because you’ll be labeling all product that enters and exits your retail store. There are no specific regulations about packaging on premises, but cannabis must be already sealed before transport.
Yes and no. Generally, you can’t sell alcohol or tobacco at cannabis dispensaries or cannabis at smoke shops, liquor shops, etc. Terpenes (basically cannabis essential oils) and hemp products have different rules. It’s possible to create cannabis-flavored products that don’t include THC.
Also, tinctures contain alcohol, so even though THC vodka or beer (or even vodka or beer without cannabis) would be passe in Massachusetts dispensaries, alcohol-based tinctures are allowed.
You can. So long as you meet the requirements, you can house everything in one building. Each license can be obtained and stacked on each other.
You can’t give away products, and the seed-to-sale tracking system ensures each plant is sold.
Your store can be open between the hours of 8am and 6pm, seven days a week.
You can’t. The CCC has over 100 pages of cannabis advertising regulations. Product displays can’t face the street, loudspeakers can’t be used, promotional swag can’t be sold, etc. Read these guidelines thoroughly to fully understand what you can and can’t do.
18 with a qualifying medical condition, 21 for recreational cannabis.
Massachusetts’ system of record for the cannabis industry is BioTrackTHC’s POS platform. Your POS should ultimately report to BioTrack directly to seamlessly remain compliant.
You’ll need to pay $200-$500 per month per BioTrackTHC license and you can print tags yourself from seed-to-sale.