Cannabis Control Commission Addresses Current Market Saturation And Hurdles, Braces For Future

“There are a lot of hoops and hurdles that one must jump through … And compliance is not cheap.”

In their first hybrid meeting since 2020 where the public could attend in person or online, Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission members spent more than six hours discussing current hurdles in the state’s Social Equity program and other corners of the industry as it exists today, plus laid the groundwork for upcoming debates over topics like social consumption which promise to present their own unique problems in the future.

Over the past few months, CCC commissioners and members of the body’s leadership team have been focused on community outreach and fact-finding, attending meetings with researchers and stakeholders as well as industry conferences. In some cases, they’ve asked experts to help bundle community input and also solicited comments online.

“We are in the thralls of our regulatory work … Everyone is quite busy here,” CCC Chair Shannon O’Brien said, referring to the body’s current working groups addressing Host Community Agreements (HCAs), municipal equity, and social consumption reforms. They’ve also had some mini-scandals to manage, but today’s meeting showed that commissioners are at least capable of having adult discussions that largely steer clear of prohibitionist waters.

For updates on reports from those aforementioned working groups, Commissioner Ava Callender Concepcion said the HCA team will have an internal draft next week followed by a version for the public to comment on, and spoke about the work they’re doing and the licensing specialists they’re consulting with. “We’re really working hard to make sure we get it right,” she said.

Diving into the most recent CCC data, Executive Director Shawn Collins emphasized the difficulty that many provisional licensees have in trying to actually open, specifically noting the problem of securing funding. “There are a lot of hoops and hurdles that one must jump through,” Collins said. “And compliance is not cheap.” Nor is construction, he added.

Collins and others pointed out the particular stress on applicants from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. There are currently more than 600 Social Equity, Economic Equity, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise applicants in the provisional phases of licensing.

In addition to lengthy discussions on the future of social consumption in Mass and an interesting side bar on the CCC potentially helping Bay State brands expand to other states, talks largely focused on sustainability in an increasingly saturated market—especially for SE and EE applicants. Members addressed the viability of the courier model versus the delivery model, considered capping cultivation licenses, and discussed potential ways to rethink the microbusiness model, which one member said “is not as appealing as an investment tool for anyone trying to provide capital to that small business.”

Right now, there’s no mechanism for a microbusiness, which the CCC defines as a “Marijuana Product Manufacturer may purchase no more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana per year from other MEs,” to graduate to a license that permits higher capacity. There are currently nine Mass microbusinesses up and running with 30 more in the pipeline.

“I don’t think the fixes are a heavy lift,” Commissioner Kimberly Roy said. One idea is to allow microbusinesses to have more than one license type, a change that can simply come with the removal of a single line from the state regulations. Roy added, “If we can come to a consensus it might open doors. … They’re [currently] really confined in what they can do.”

In other news, the CCC is installing a RingCentral telephone system this month to help manage the deluge of incoming calls from license-holding hopefuls looking to see what the hell is up with their applications.

The commission’s next meeting is on May 22, followed by another one on June 8. Those will be held remotely, which is pretty strange considering they just made a big deal out of bringing back hybrid meetings. Either way, we’ll be there.