Massachusetts: Regulators agree to new approach on cannabis cafes

Marijuana regulators voted Monday to scrap years-old plans that called for rolling out cannabis cafes and other social consumption sites with a 12-municipality pilot program, a step that one official said could bring that voter-approved segment of the industry online “a little quicker.”

Nine months after a new state law outlined a process for cities and towns to authorize on-site consumption of marijuana products, the Cannabis Control Commission pivoted away from past regulations that would have constrained the launch to a dozen cities and towns.

CCC staff will now set out to craft a regulatory framework awarding licenses to locations where patrons will be able to purchase and enjoy marijuana products on the premises, in contrast from the existing retail stores that have been open for years.

Commissioner Nurys Camargo, a member of a working group that recommended the change in approach, said the decision to drop the pilot program encourages municipalities to decide whether they will opt in to social consumption and allows regulators to devote their attention to longer-term questions about the industry rather than operation of a limited pilot program.

“It’s sort of a parallel track. It’s going to allow us to create [social consumption] a little quicker, but this is still not going to be done overnight,” Camargo told reporters after the commission’s meeting. “Everyone’s wondering: what is it? What is the regulatory framework? What are the licenses? I think that now, we can really start thinking about what does that look like, especially now that we don’t have a pilot project in place.”

“If we would have had a pilot project in place, then we’d have to think about a pilot license, and a pilot license would get stuck in our regs for the next three to five or six years, knowing how things move slowly throughout the process,” she added.

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