STARTING A CANNABIS
BUSINESS IN MASSACHUSETTS
Applications and licenses are currently available to qualifying medical marijuana dispensary applicants who are willing to go through the six to twelve month application process provided by the Department of Public Health to become licensed.
ADULT USE LICENSING
COMING OCTOBER 2017
Adult use licensing of retail, cultivation, and manufacturing cannabis businesses will begin on October 1, 2017 for experienced dispensary operators and everyone else on October 1, 2018.
WHAT KIND OF CANNABIS BUSINESSES ARE CURRENTLY LEGAL TO CREATE IN MASSACHUSETTS?
Currently the only legal and licensed cannabis businesses in Massachusetts are Registered Marijuana Dispensaries and Cannabis Testing Laboratories.
Registered Marijuana Dispensaries (RMD) must obtain a license to operate through the Department of Public Health (DPH) before providing medicine to patients.
Cannabis testing laboratories currently register with the DPH through the RMD they work for. Proposed changes by the DPH currently before the public health council include registering testing laboratories and requiring a state license for them to operate and test for RMDs. We will update things as we see final regulations promulgated on testing laboratories in 2017 by DPH.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO START A MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSARY IN MASSACHUSETTS?
While the application fees are not that high, because of the time and energy that goes into developing medical grade cannabis cultivation and retail facilities we suggest our clients earmark at least five to ten million dollars before beginning the application process.
There is a $500,000 initial capital requirement to ensure that the applicant is financially capable of completing the process. The Application of Intent is only $1,500 but when it is time to submit the Management and Operations Profile it costs another $30,000. While the Siting Profile section requires no additional fee the Provisional Certificate of Registration (PCR) received once a letter of non-opposition/support is received by an applicant does require an additional $50,000 fee per location. These fees along with the costs of working with attorneys and renting real estate with no remuneration for several months during the application process as well as the buildout requirements is why we express the need for financial requirements in excess of five million dollars to become a medical marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts.
For more information on the application process and fees please visit the DPH Website here.
HOW LONG DOES THE DISPENSARY APPLICATION PROCESS TAKE?
We tell our clients to prepare for at least a six to twelve month application process for a medical marijuana dispensary including three retail locations and one cultivation center.
Each phase of the application process takes at least eight weeks. Three phases the application of intent, management and operations, and siting profile each take at least eight weeks before any construction may begin on the dispensary. Siting locations can be challenging and may take longer to find municipalities willing to accept a dispensary.
WHAT IS A LETTER OF NON-OPPOSITION/SUPPORT?
The letter of non-opposition/support is required by the Department of Public Health to show local support for locating a medical marijuana treatment center in a municipality before a provisional certificate of registration can be issued.
Obtaining a letter can be a challenge and usually involves understanding local zoning issues as well as being able to prove cultural competence for a given municipality as well as local support. Either the Mayor of a municipality or the City/Town Council/Selectman or Alderman have the authority to give a letter of non-opposition/support. These letters are tied directly with the physical location the medical marijuana dispensary applicant plans to locate in.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO OBTAIN LOCAL PATIENT SUPPORT?
The Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance which passed the medical marijuana law in 2012 is an excellent resource to begin gathering local patient support for a dispensary.
While there are a variety of medical marijuana patient organizations, few have the legitimacy of the MPAA in Massachusetts. Representing the thousands of patients participating in the medical marijuana program, having them on your side means finding local support is less challenging. Start the process by reaching out and expressing your mission to provide safe access to patients and making a donation. Go to compassionforpatients.com and get the patients on your side.
IS THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH EASY TO WORK WITH?
Yes, but it depends who you ask.
The Department of Public Health like any agency of government has its own internal politics and staffing issues. While the revamped application process for dispensaries since the Baker administration started slowly, it is now going full speed ahead with many success stories and over 93 dispensary provisional licenses issued.
WHERE CAN I FIND A COPY OF THE MEDICAL CANNABIS LAW AND REGULATIONS?
CAN MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSARIES CO-LOCATE WITH ADULT USE RETAIL?
Yes, medical marijuana dispensaries will be able to co-locate with adult use.
It is clear upon reading the statute below regarding local control that a municipality cannot prevent the sale of adult use in dispensaries that provide medical marijuana to patients.
Section 3 Local Control
(a)(1) govern the time, place and manner of marijuana establishment operations and of any business dealing in marijuana accessories, except that zoning ordinances or by-laws shall not prohibit placing a marijuana establishment which cultivates, manufactures or sells marijuana or marijuana products in any area in which a medical marijuana treatment center is registered to engage in the same type of activity;
This information was obtained from Section 3 of Chapter 94G in the adult use law.
WHAT KIND OF CANNABIS BUSINESSES ARE LEGAL UNDER ADULT USE?
Massachusetts legalized four different cannabis business licenses.
Marijuana Cultivator ($15,000 fee) – an entity licensed to cultivate, process and package marijuana, to deliver marijuana to marijuana establishments and to transfer marijuana to other marijuana establishments, but not to consumers
Marijuana Testing Facility ($10,000 fee) – an entity licensed to test marijuana and marijuana products, including certification for potency and the presence of contaminants.
Marijuana Product Manufacturer ($15,000 fee) – an entity licensed to obtain, manufacture, process and package marijuana and marijuana products, to deliver marijuana and marijuana products to marijuana establishments and to transfer marijuana and marijuana products to other marijuana establishments, but not to consumers.
Marijuana Retailer ($15,000 fee) – an entity licensed to purchase and deliver marijuana and marijuana products from marijuana establishments and to deliver, sell or otherwise transfer marijuana and marijuana products to marijuana establishments and to consumers.
All licenses require submission of an initial application fee of $3,000 on top of the fees listed above. Data on application fees were obtained from Section 4 of Chapter 94G in the adult use law.
Information on the four adult use business license types was obtained from Section 1 of Chapter 94G in the adult use law.
WHEN WILL THE APPLICATIONS FOR ADULT USE BUSINESSES BEGIN?
October 1, 2017 is when the Cannabis Commission will begin accepting applications for marijuana testing facilities and from experienced medical marijuana operators for retail, manufacturing, and cultivation.
October 1, 2018 is when the Cannabis Commission will begin accepting applications from everyone for marijuana retail and manufacturer licenses.
October 1, 2019 is the day the Cannabis Commission will begin accepting applications from everyone for marijuana cultivator licenses.
We obtained this information from Sections 5 – 12 of Chapter 94G with the addition of six months due to the legislative delay.
WHEN WILL ADULT USE REGULATIONS BE PROMULGATED BY THE CANNABIS COMMISSION?
September 15, 2017 is the day the Cannabis Commission will promulgate rules and procedures regarding the licensing and regulating of non-medical marijuana establishments.
This information was obtained from Section 9 of Chapter 94G in the adult use law.
WHERE CAN I FIND A COPY OF THE ADULT USE LAW?
Check out the full ballot question text Chapter 94G here.
MORE THAN MARIJUANA
We have streamlined everything from applications and licensing to citing and zoning in Massachusetts to quickly bring registered medical marijuana dispensaries online and serving the patients of the Commonwealth.
Creating a hosting agreement and obtaining a letter of non-opposition can be a challenge in Massachusetts but we are sensitive to the needs of community members and develop compromises that benefit everyone.
MJ&CO is the premier marijuana business consultant in the commonwealth with our streamlined licensing, operations, and management process.