AP NEWS

License Flow Points to Maturing Pot Market in 2019

December 15, 2018

By Colin A. Young

State House News Service

BOSTON -- As the state’s third retail marijuana shop prepares to open this weekend, the Cannabis Control Commission on Thursday churned through almost two dozen more business licenses, setting up the legal pot industry to truly take off in 2019.

The CCC approved eight businesses for final licenses, which allow the companies to begin amassing an inventory of cannabis but does not allow them to begin sales or other business operations. Among those to receive final licenses Thursday were four retail pot shops: Northeast Alternatives at 999 William Canning Boulevard in Fall River, Temescal Wellness of Massachusetts at 252 Coolidge St. in Hudson and at 10 Callahan Dr. in Pittsfield, and Theory Wellness at 394 Stockbridge Road in Great Barrington.

Before the commission worked through the applications and results of the CCC staff’s inspections of the facilities Thursday, Chairman Steven Hoffman said the day’s agenda -- which also called for votes on 15 provisional business licenses --represented “probably about the volume we should expect to see going forward at every one of our biweekly meetings.”

After Thursday’s meeting, the CCC has now granted 52 provisional licenses, 17 final licenses, and has given the ultimate green light to begin operations to three retailers, two testing laboratories, a cultivator and a marijuana product manufacturer. Two non-medical marijuana retail shops have opened -- in Leicester and Northampton -- and a third is scheduled to open in Salem on Saturday.

After detailing the number of licenses approved and other metrics of the CCC’s work in 2018, Hoffman said he expects 2019 will “dramatically exceed what we see in 2018.”

Consumers have complained about the slow pace of the legal retail industry rollout and the crush of people interested in buying marijuana led to traffic and crowd control issues in Leicester. CCC officials have said they expect more stores to come online on a rolling basis, which is expected to alleviate some of the problems that have cropped up in Leicester and Northampton.

“I think you’re going to see, every couple of weeks, a couple of new stores and not just stores, but cultivation sites and manufacturing facilities,” Hoffman said last month.

In an attempt to avoid the traffic and parking issues that nagged the other stores during the early days of recreational sales, Alternative Therapies Group is requiring that all customers at its Salem store first schedule an appointment on its website.

“As supply and demand in the region stabilizes over time, we fully intend to serve walk-in customers,” the company, which in 2015 became the first medical marijuana dispensary to open to patients, said on its website.

The company said it has not been authorized yet to sell edible marijuana products, that it plans to limit purchases to a quarter-ounce of flower, despite that the law allows customers to buy up to one ounce at a time, and that it will only accept payments in cash.

Asked about the idea of launching retail sales on an appointment-only basis, Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday it sounded like “a good idea” and said it “may be something other people can pick up on.”

The city of Salem also encouraged customers to use the MBTA and a free shuttle between the T’s “kiss and ride” area and ATG’s store. “The City is approaching this event similar to how it approaches large scale event planning and logistics in general in Salem,” the city, which sees large crowds flock to its streets every Halloween season, said in a press release.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the CCC voted to authorize Executive Director Shawn Collins to execute a lease agreement for a satellite office at 50 Franklin St. in Boston’s Downtown Crossing.

Hoffman said the space the CCC is interested in is a total of 4,532 square feet at cost of roughly $54 per square foot and will be ready for the CCC to move into in the late spring or summer, after some construction work to configure the space to the CCC’s needs.

The CCC, which has been operating out of temporary office space in Boston’s Financial District, is planning to lease office space in Worcester as its main headquarters. Hoffman said the commission will meet again on Monday to discuss a lease in Worcester and to take a vote to authorize Collins to execute an agreement for the headquarters.