Retail outlet likely to open after Labor Day
THE STATE’S CANNABIS Control Commission on Monday awarded its first license for a retail recreational pot store to a medical marijuana facility in Leicester, where sales will probably start sometime in September.
The board unanimously approved the provisional license for Cultivate Holdings to add retail pot to the medical marijuana the company sells at the firm’s Main Street store in the small town bordering Worcester on the west. The license is provisional until Cultivate meets a few more conditions, such as fingerprinting employees and passing state-mandated inspections.
“We’re very excited to be the first,” Sam Barber, president of Cultivate, said immediately after the meeting. “We have everything at our facility. In terms of having the ability to do it, we’re ready to go.”
Barber said Massachusetts will benefit from the addition of new jobs and tax revenues. Under the law, the state will collect a 10.75 percent tax on retail sales (plus 6.25 percent sales tax), and communities can levy up to a 3 percent local option tax. In addition, host communities can get up to 3 percent of a store, grower’s, or manufacturer’s gross revenues to cover expenses incurred by the community in dealing with the new businesses.
Pressed by reporters, Barber initially said he expected to be selling marijuana to his first retail customer “in the next few weeks.” But later, in a quieter moment after the media scrum disappeared, Barber acknowledged it would likely be September before he would be able to open the retail side of his business because of the lack of product and the need for independent labs to set up and begin doing testing mandated by state law. Cultivate also has license applications pending for manufacturing and cultivation facilities in Massachusetts.
Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman said he was hopeful Cultivate could move quickly but said it is now on the company, not the commission, to make it happen.
“I think the timetable is at his control,” Hoffman told reporters. “He has to get back to us and tell us he’s met the conditions of the provisional licenses and then we’ll do the inspections immediately.”
In addition to the retail license, the board also awarded on Monday its first marijuana transportation and manufacturing licenses to Sira Naturals of Milford. Sira last week received the first license of any kind when the commission granted the firm a provisional license to grow recreational marijuana at its medical cultivation facility.
“Every day is a milestone,” Hoffman said of the commission’s recent actions. “I think it’s a big day but it’s one of many big days.”
Cultivate’s license was granted one day after many thought retail stores already would be open and selling pot. When the Legislature revamped the voter-approved law legalizing recreational marijuana, it set the timetable back for everything by six months. But while the first day of sales could not begin before July 1, it did not mean sales must begin on that day.
Hoffman said the board has been consistent in not targeting a date despite the public perception pot sales would begin on Sunday.
“We are doing this right, we are doing this for the long term,” Hoffman said. “There is no legislative mandate for pot stores to open on July 1.”
Barber said he is not frustrated with the pace of the law’s implementation, saying it’s essential to get it right, not get it done fast.
“I’d rather have the program done in the right way,” he said. “This is one of the most rigorous states to get through the process but I think they’re doing it the right way.”