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Hotel Weed: Mass May Need More Than Regulatory Fix To Expand Delivery

“Right now, the regulations completely do not allow it. … If we were to look at revising those regulations, it would be very large scale changes to those regulations.”

The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission is looking for ways to increase delivery options, specifically to towns that ban dispensaries and cultivations, as well as to hotels—but regulatory fixes may not be a feasible option anytime soon.

Currently, adult-use delivery is forbidden in about a third of commonwealth municipalities, along with all hotels. Opening up these markets could be a financial boon for struggling delivery license holders.

“We’re doing some more work internally on the delivery front,” Acting CCC Chair Ava Callender Concepcion said during the commission’s May 9 meeting.

Out of 351 towns and cities in Mass, 125 have banned adult-use cannabis delivery, while 191 allow it. Policies in the other 34 locales remain unclear, according to the state’s cannabis zoning tracker. Where there’s no rule in place, delivery companies can pass through communities, but are not permitted to drop off to consumers or other cannabis businesses in them.

“The reality is that the current licensees are commuting through the entire commonwealth, whether or not the municipality they’re driving through is on board or not,” Concepcion said. The commissioner also noted that only adult-use cannabis delivery is restricted, whereas medical cannabis can lawfully be delivered anywhere in the state.

The public will get a chance to weigh in on new draft regulations this summer, including changes pertaining to the removal of a so-called two-driver rule for delivery and courier companies; for years, people with these licenses have asked for changes, including to the rule that requires cannabis delivery companies to put two employees on the road together. Ahead of those hearings, commissioners and their supporting staffers wanted to consider additional adjustments that could make the license type more financially viable.

At last week’s meeting, CCC General Counsel Kristina Gasson explained that changing the regulations relating to towns that opted out of cannabis would be difficult, since local communities have significant authority when it comes to governing cannabis businesses.

“Local control can prohibit marijuana establishment types as well as the time, manner, and location of operation,” Gasson said. “Adult-use delivery license falls into the definition of a marijuana establishment.”

The CCC attorney added, “Right now, the regulations completely do not allow it. … If we were to look at revising those regulations, it would be very large scale changes to those regulations.”

Before attempting any regulatory overhaul, Commissioner Bruce Stebbins suggested that the CCC could reach out to communities that have delivery bans to see if they would consider allowing it without having to also allow dispensaries or grow sites.

“I think there’s even a way to build into the argument that as much as we’ve been trying to bring the legacy market into the legal market, there is probably still some of the legacy market active in these ‘no’ towns,” Stebbins said. “I don’t know how many communities we would get, but at least it’s proactive on the commission’s part.”

Stebbins said that he met with the Massachusetts Lodging Association to get its feedback on hotel delivery, and explained that there are liability concerns around over-consumption, as well as about non-guests using hotels to receive deliveries, as well the fact that smoking is prohibited in most hotels. Massachusetts law currently allows hotels to let guests smoke, though almost all of them bar it as a matter of company policy.

Rather than write new rules that require hotels to accept weed deliveries, Stebbins said that he planned to continue discussing the issue with the MLA before formally easing the restrictions on hotel drop offs.

“I would say my initial thoughts with this kind of feedback, I would have any concerns with the commission imposing any obligation on a property owner,” he said.