Sale of marijuana in Massachusetts remains months away - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Sale of marijuana in Massachusetts remains months away

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Massachusetts voters legalized marijuana more than a year ago.

However, last July lawmakers passed a new law that tweaks the measure approved by voters.

Meanwhile the sale of legalized pot still remains months away as state regulators lay the groundwork for a new retail marijuana business.

What the legislature did was to change a lot of the provisions relating to commercial activity. However, the changes they made were good and we can live with them," said Attorney Dick Evans. 

Evans was the chair of the 'Yes on 4' Campaign which led to the ballot question legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts.

The state's Cannabis Control Commisison is now working on finalizing new regulations for the sale of marijuana.

"One of the key things about the new law is that you not only have to satisfy the state rules. If you want a license you also have to satisfy the city and town rules," Evans explained. 

While cities and towns wait for those final state regulations on the sale of marijuana, they have taken different actions across the Commonwealth.

More than 100 Massachusetts cities and towns including some from western Massachusetts have imposed bans, moratoriums, or other limits on marijuana shops and businesses.

Among the towns that have established regulations for sale of marijuana is Easthampton which has allowed people like Karima Rizk to go ahead with plans to open a cannabis cafe in town.

"We will be able to offer individual servings of edibles, and vaporization of flower and concentrates. We're still waiting to hear from the state on its final word on smoking," Rizk said. 

The local entrepreneur told Western Mass News she looks forward to the day she will be able to open her cannabis cafe.

In Holyoke, the city plans on welcoming the marijuana business on a grander scale.

"The city of Holyoke is open for business, we're interested in doing business with responsible commercial entities that will do their due diligence do their appropriate commercial planning," said Holyoke Director of Planning and Development, Marcos Marrero. 

Marrero said the city already has one permitted facility in the city in one of the warehouses along the city's canal.

The city's vision is to open up those old paper mill buildings to other commercial marijuana enterprises.

Many smaller communities, especially those in the hill towns of western Massachusetts are taking a wait and see attitude.

"It's a mixed bag because the regulations are so complicated, they're hundreds of pages long," said Tim Brennan, Executive Director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. 

He said the commission is looking to help those smaller communities.

"This year what we'll be doing as we did with medical marijuana is we have a lead staff person here he will work with local planners to help develop a model zoning bylaw ordinance," said Brennan.  

Another  twist to the Massachusetts marijuana story is that the Federal U.S. Attorney for the Baystate said no one is immune from prosecution under federal drug laws even though Massachusetts has legalized marijuana.

 For those who have advocated for legalizing marijuana, they will continue to fight.

The new regulations are expected to be finalized by March 15.

Applications for retails sales will be received as early as  April first with the first retail marijuana shops expected to open in Massachusetts in July.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. 

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