Lobster rolls, a baseball game at Fenway and some locally grown cannabis? Starting July 1st, 2018, Massachusetts will be your one-stop destination for all three. After decriminalizing personal pot possession in small amounts in 2008 and legalizing medical marijuana in 2013, in 2016, Bay State voters finally approved a ballot measure that legalized recreational cannabis. It has taken a bit of time to sort out all of the regulations and policies surrounding it, but now, almost two years later, the state is close to opening its first legal recreational dispensaries. In only a few short months, both residents and tourists alike will be able to legally enjoy a range of dispensaries, cafés and other enticing cannabis-related offerings.
So what will happen on July 1st? Anyone 21-plus will be able to visit a dispensary walk inside, peruse a menu and order a couple grams, a few joints, or even an ounce of their favorite strain. While smoking isn’t allowed in dispensaries, cannabis cafes – which could open as early as February 2019 – will provide space to enjoy their products. However, since the state is still in the process of handing out licenses, it’s unclear just how many retail businesses will be open, and where.
Thankfully, the state government’s Cannabis Control Commission learned a lot when it was figuring out how to regulate medical cannabis. “The state has made it a much easier and unbiased process,” says Tim Shaw, COO of MariMed Inc., who is in the process of opening three facilities in the state, including one near Cape Cod. “The first time around there was so much room for corruption. I think the state realized it wasn’t going anywhere, the people have spoken in vast majority, so it’s time to take it serious and put a real program together.”
In addition to making the retail application more streamlined, the state has also handed towns and cities more power when it comes to figuring out the role cannabis will play in their communities. Cities that voted in favor of the 2016 ballot measure now need to compile regulations, including deciding how many shops they will allow to open, as well as compile other regulations. However, some areas are not as supportive, with more than 100 municipalities across the state already imposing moratoriums, zoning restrictions, or bans on cannabis retail – though that might end up backfiring for them. “There’s nothing barring [local citizens] from driving 20 minutes to the next town that has it and then driving back into town,” says Shaw. “You’re not keeping it out of your town, you’re just preventing any tax revenues from coming in.”
And that tax revenue is nothing to scoff at. BDS Analytics, a company that compiles data related to the cannabis industry, predicts that legal recreational spending in Massachusetts in 2018 will reach $304 million, and could grow as high as $929 million by 2021.
But it’s not just revenue at stake – it’s the first state on the Eastern Seaboard to offer adults a way to legally buy recreational marijuana, potentially changing the outlook on pot in the entire region. Here, a closer look at how and where you can purchase cannabis, and how you can safely and legally use it.
Cannabis for Sale: From Flower to Food
Massachusetts law will allow you to enjoy cannabis recreationally in a variety of forms: flower to smoke or vape, edibles, tinctures, topicals, oils, concentrates, seeds for starting your own small ganja garden and more. While it’s still unclear how many new businesses will end up being approved, it’s a safe bet that countless start-ups will start showing up across the state, putting more sophisticated spins on the traditional pot brownie.
The Legal Nitty Gritty
In Massachusetts, you can already legally enjoy cannabis in your home, or the home of others. But you can’t smoke recreationally any place where smoking tobacco is already prohibited, like the Cape Cod National Seashore and various public parks and playgrounds in certain cities. In general, you can’t consume recreational cannabis in public. And while yes, you can legally drive your newly purchased cannabis home in your car, you are not allowed to consume it while driving, and it must be in a sealed container or locked in your trunk or glove compartment.
According to state law, you’re allowed to have up to one ounce on you at any time (though no more than five grams of it may be a concentrate), though you can possess up to 10 ounces at a time in your home, in a secured, locked space. Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean there aren’t penalties. If you’re caught breaking any of the above regulations, you can end up with a $100 fine and may need to forfeit your cannabis.
Where to Get Ganja Groceries
Recreational dispensary locations are still up in the air, though we know they will be spread out. And don’t worry, as the state gives out licenses, cannabis businesses will begin to let you know where you can find them. However, there are still a lot of zoning and regulatory issues many need to contend with before they can open their doors.
Currently, according to Massachusetts records, there are 24 medical cannabis dispensaries spread across the state, which may provide some insight into locations that will be cannabis-friendly come July. (You can find your closest MA-based medical dispensary on an app like Weedmaps, which will also show recreational shops as they are approved.)
While you might expect a higher concentration of dispensaries in the Boston metro area, there are plenty of pro-cannabis communities across the western part of the state. Some cities and towns have been super welcoming with their requirements and regulations, encouraging a lot of businesses – from grow facilities and cafes to dispensaries and cooperative collectives. And, if you’re visiting, you can already stay in cannabis-friendly lodging like Bohemian Sweet, an adorable vacation rental located in Easthampton.
While you wait for the dispensaries to open, there are still a few ways to enjoy your recreational cannabis outside the house. Stacey Mulvey, who runs Marijuasana – a cannabis-friendly yoga practice based in Las Vegas – recently brought her workshop to Boston, and she’s not alone in offering everyday enjoyment paired with herb. The popular Puff, Pass, and Paint offers classes in the Boston area as well, for folks who want to flex their creative muscles. And, for the foodies out there, check out the cannabis supper clubs that are starting to pop up, including the fine-dining option from Mass Cannabis Chefs.
The central part of the state offers up its own cannabis activities. The Summit Private Lounge, which offers weekly cannabis-friendly events for adults 21-plus in Worcester. They have painting classes, card games and yoga workshops, all accompanied with a cannabis twist. After all, a joint or two might just make that canvas painting into a true masterpiece. Sites like Pot Guide can offer more information on where and when events like pot paintball take place.
Since it’s currently legal to enjoy cannabis in the state despite no retail shops being open, some folks have been utilizing delivery services. These companies work within the spirit of the law, delivering items like t-shirts or juice, which are sold at a higher than usual price, and they arrive with a “free” bag of cannabis.
HighSpeed, delivers a range of various juices in the Boston area, and you’re able to choose from “Love” or “Lots of Love” among other options for an herbal “gift” along with your $50-plus bottle of iced tea. Delivery service Duuber is available across the state, offering up t-shirts in small, medium, and “fullz” sizes, ranging in price from $100-$290. Each shirt is accompanied by a free gift of cannabis.
While prices among various dispensaries will most likely be competitive, expect costs to range from $10 to $30 a gram over market rate. The state will impose a 17-percent sales tax, and each municipality can impose up to a 3 percent tax as well. Folks who have a medical marijuana card (which requires a $200 doctor visit and $50 annual registration fee) can continue to purchase at medical dispensaries, which are not subject to these taxes.
And for those green lovers who also go green when it comes to the environment, rest assured that many of the cannabis businesses opening up in the state will be focused on sustainability. For folks like Shaw at MeriMed Inc., sustainability is all about efficiency. It allows them to create more quality product for less. And Shaw isn’t alone.
Carlos Perea, COO at iAnthus, a company that owns and operates licensed cannabis cultivators, processors and dispensaries throughout the U.S., says that his company is committed to implementing environmentally responsible business practices, because it simply falls in line with their vision of how the cannabis industry should be, overall. “We use systems and strategies to keep our water and power usage to a minimum while working to reduce our carbon impact,” he says. “Our state-of the art cultivation facility in Holliston, Massachusetts [has] fully automated systems to shut down lights and reduce power usage wherever possible and where we have invested in a zero discharge water treatment plant that reclaims, treats and reuses water.”
Many cannabis businesses, like MariMed and iAnthus, already have these practices in place as part of their overall sustainability missions, but the state has instituted some environmentally friendly regulations of their own, capping their usage at 26 watts per square foot of cultivation space. One way businesses have been meeting this regulation is by using LED lights to grow their cannabis, as they are approximately 40 percent more energy efficient than traditional grow lights. Some growers aren’t thrilled with these regulations, as LED lights are more expensive, but others note that in the end, LEDs are cheaper to use, which is a win for their bottom line and the environment at the same time.
Correction: This article previously stated that both dispensaries and cannabis cafés will open in 2018. It has been corrected to clarify that dispensaries will be licensed to open this summer, while cafés will open in February 2019, at the earliest.