Pubdate: Thu, 05 Jul 2018
Source: Hartford Courant (CT)
Copyright: 2018 The Hartford Courant
Author: Matthew Ormseth


July 1, a fated day in Massachusetts for advocates of recreational
marijuana, came and went. The first day that stores were allowed to
sell nonmedical cannabis passed without so much as a joint sold. No
retailers had been licensed, and July 1 turned out much like any other
day since December 15, 2016, when it became legal in Massachusetts to
possess, grow and give away small quantities of cannabis.

But in the intervening year-and-a-half, no retailers have begun
selling the drug. Advocates of its recreational use have grown
frustrated at the retail rollout's plodding pace.

On Monday, Massachusetts' cannabis commission gave a provisional
retail license to Cultivate Holdings in Leicester, but a spokeswoman
for the commission said the company must pass an inspection and
fingerprint its staff before it can begin selling cannabis. The
commission has also awarded another company, Milford, Mass.-based Sira
Naturals, licenses to grow and transport recreational marijuana.

With the Massachusetts marijuana market in flux, here's what you need
to know about recreational pot north of the Connecticut border, and
what you can and can't do with it:

1. Can I bring nonmedical cannabis from Massachusetts into

No. Kelly Grant, a spokeswoman for the state police, said despite
Massachusetts legalizing recreational marijuana, the troopers'
approach will be "the same as what we're doing now -- enforcing our
state laws."

"No matter what you choose to do in another state," Grant said, "when
you get back to Connecticut, Connecticut law applies in

State police, who patrol the highways, will continue to monitor for
marijuana use with DUI checkpoints and stops, she said.

2. What can I smoke in Massachusetts, and where can I smoke

You can legally possess and grow nonmedical marijuana. You can also
give it away, as long as you receive no money or services in exchange.
If you're 21 or older, you can carry up to an ounce of marijuana in
the state, although no more than five grams can be in concentrate form.

For the first time in the Connecticut legislature, a recreational
marijuana bill has made it out of committee and is headed to the full
General Assembly for consideration.

The appropriations committee voted 27-24 Thursday to approve the

"This bill deserves an opportunity for further conversation...

You can grow cannabis and possess up to 10 ounces in your home, as
long as you lock up any amount of marijuana exceeding an ounce. Fail
to lock up your marijuana, and you'll be hit with a $100 fine and have
your cannabis confiscated.

You cannot smoke marijuana in public places -- on the sidewalk, at the
park or at the beach -- and a police officer can give you a citation
for smoking in your car.

3. When will recreational marijuana go on sale in Massachusetts?

Sam Barber, president of the Leicester company that was awarded a
retail license Monday, told reporters he planned to begin selling
product "in the next few weeks." His company has only been granted a
provisional license, which means the cannabis commission must still
inspect his facility and screen his staff.

Kamani Jefferson, president of the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer
Council, said the state would need hundreds of cannabis retailers --
verging on a thousand -- to meet demand. A marijuana tourism website,, tallied the number of recreational dispensaries in
Colorado earlier this year: 518, nearly double the number of Starbucks
coffee shops in the state, the website said.

Shaleen Title, a member of the cannabis commission, wrote on Twitter
that "more licenses are coming."

"We are moving super fast," Title wrote. "Our staff goes nonstop."

4. What's the holdup?

Jefferson, the recreational marijuana advocate, said the vetting
process for retailers has stalled at the hyper-local level -- the
zoning boards and town councils that must approve site plans for
dispensaries within their municipal limits.

"The state is doing the best they can do with the resources they
have," he said. "It comes down to the local level -- they have most of
the power in the situation."

Local officials can also set the tax rate on marijuana sold within
their city or town's limits, up to 3 percent. Unlike medical
marijuana, recreational cannabis will be taxed. The state plans to
levy a 6.25 percent sales tax and 10.75 percent excise tax, and leave
to the discretion of municipal officials an option to levy the local
tax up to 3 percent.

Because of the taxes, recreational cannabis will likely be more
expensive than black market product when it first hits the shelves,
Jefferson said. But as the state grants more licenses and stiffens the
competition, he expects prices to drop.

Opponents of recreational marijuana legalization in Connecticut argued
Thursday it would cost the state more than it would collect in tax

Legalization would cost the state $216 million in 2020, "far
outweighing even the rosiest tax projections," a report released
Thursday by Smart Approaches...

5. Where else is recreational marijuana legal in New

Maine and Vermont. Maine legalized cannabis for recreational use in
2016, but until this May, the state had not put in place a plan to
license retailers. Those 21 or older can possess up to 2.5 ounces of
cannabis and grow up to six plants in Maine.

Gov. Paul LePage had vetoed a bill that offered a framework to license
and regulate marijuana retailers, but the state legislature overrode
his objections in May. The state has since moved forward with its
plans for a retail cannabis market, which could debut as early as next

Recreational cannabis became legal in Vermont on July 1. Those 21 or
older can carry up to an ounce of cannabis and grow as many as six
plants -- two mature and four immature. But nowhere in Vermont can you
purchase marijuana for nonmedical purposes, and the state has no
designs for a retail market.

6. If there are no retailers for recreational cannabis in
Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont, how do I get it?

Regulators intended people who enjoy marijuana for recreational use to
grow their own, at least until a legal retail market emerged. In Maine
and Massachusetts, some entrepreneurs have used the so-called "gift"
loophole to give away marijuana products while accepting

John Boehner, the former U.S. Speaker of the House, has signed onto a
cannabis investment group with holdings at a Connecticut dispensary.

Boehner joined Acreage Holdings, an investment group led by Kevin
Murphy, who owns a home in Madison. Murphy's group has backed
marijuana dispensaries and cultivators...

The Portland Press Herald profiled a Biddeford, Maine, businessman who
gives away his cannabis-infused hot sauces and brownies. His
beneficiaries express their thanks with donations for "shipping and

7. Once retail cannabis sales begin in Massachusetts, how will it
affect Connecticut?

Some Connecticut dispensaries worry patients will eschew the state's
rigorous, expensive medical marijuana program once they can buy
cannabis without a prescription in Massachusetts.

"It's onerous -- there's hoops you have to jump through," said Tom
Nicholas, whose dispensary, Prime Wellness in South Windsor, is less
than 20 miles from the Massachusetts border. Connecticut medical
marijuana patients must renew their prescriptions with a physician and
pay a $100 fee every year.

Nicholas urged the state legislature to keep pace with its New England
neighbors and legalize recreational marijuana. A bill that would've
done that was forwarded to the General Assembly by a committee -- the
first time a recreational marijuana bill made it out of committee in
state history -- but the legislation was never taken up for a vote.

"Why not have safe product to offer to adults?" Nicholas asked.
"They're breaking the law to buy it anyways. Why do we bury our heads
in the sand about it?"
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MAP posted-by: Matt