By Sophia Eppolito , Boston University Statehouse Program
BOSTON — Nearly two years after recreational marijuana was legalized in the commonwealth, experts are concerned that the rollout will be caught up in delays and red tape like medical marijuana, another voter-approved measure four years earlier.
When Massachusetts voters approved Question 4 in 2016, they established a Jan. 1, 2018, launch date for sales. That was pushed back by legislators to July 1. By mid-October, the Cannabis Control Commission created by the law had issued only six final licenses — two for retail, two for independent testing labs, a fifth for cultivation and one for product manufacturing. And they still have several steps to take before they will be approved to open.
The fiscal 2019 budget signed by Gov. Charlie Baker projected $63 million in marijuana-derived revenue for the year. Since missing the July 1 deadline, the state has missed out on a potential $20 million in revenue, according to Question 4 backers.
Will Luzier, the former campaign manager for the 2016 ballot campaign, said this slow-moving pace is eerily similar to when medical marijuana was legalized in Massachusetts in 2012. The medical statute said that there could not be more than 35 medical dispensaries open in the first year, but 2 1/2 years, later only five had opened, Luzier said.
“The concern — the fear, if you will — is that this rollout will be as slow as or slower than the medical marijuana facility rollout,” he said. “There’s been a record of glacial movement on marijuana commerce.”
Jim Borghesani, the spokesman for the ballot campaign who now works with Luzier at a marijuana business consulting company, voiced similar concerns. He attributed the slow rollout to “slow-moving bureaucracy,” indifference from elected officials, as well as municipal opposition from local cities and towns.
State Sen. Patricia