On industry’s anniversary, legal marijuana sales up to $2.3 billion

Boston Statehouse
recreational marijuana_415103

BOSTON (State House News Service) – With the state’s three-year anniversary of legal non-medical marijuana sales approaching Saturday, Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman took stock Thursday of his agency’s accomplishments, the legal industry’s growth and the challenges that remain ahead.

The first two recreational marijuana retailers — New England Treatment Access in Northampton and Cultivate in Leicester — opened their doors to consumers on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018 and the industry that voters legalized on Nov. 8, 2016 has since grown to include hundreds of businesses, thousands of employees and, as of Monday, roughly $2.3 billion in cannabis sales.

“That’s a pretty phenomenal number and you know, I think on top of the numbers, one of the things I’m proudest of is just how smooth the rollout has been and the growth of this industry,” Hoffman said. “There’s certainly been some things that have happened along the way, but for the most part, it’s been an extraordinarily smooth rollout and I would compare it favorably to any other state that either preceded us or opened at the same time we did. So I’m very proud of that.”

Hoffman is the last man standing from the original makeup of the CCC as it was created in September 2017 and is the only commissioner who was involved in the launch of retail sales. His appointment from Treasurer Deborah Goldberg extends until Sept. 1, 2022.

Executive Director Shawn Collins, who began shaping the state’s cannabis rollout while working in Goldberg’s office before being tapped as the CCC’s first administrative head, ticked through other CCC milestones and accomplishments during his report to commissioners Thursday.

In the three-plus years before Thursday’s meeting, the CCC had approved 945 marijuana business licenses, including for 379 retailers, 285 cultivators and 218 product manufacturers. It approved even more licenses later in its meeting Thursday.

So far, 176 retail stores have opened their doors, 62 cultivators (including eight outdoor grows) are tending to a cumulative 1.79 million square feet of marijuana canopy and 55 companies are manufacturing products like edibles and vaporizer cartridges.

Collins said the CCC has also approved licenses for 14 independent testing labs (eight of which have been cleared to begin testing activities), a crucial part of the supply chain since all marijuana sold in Massachusetts must first be tested by such a lab. In 2019, when only two testing labs were in operation, one major retailer blamed a testing backlog for shortages of flower at its stores.

Collins’ presentation to the CCC indicated that there are more than 17,000 active employees in the adult-use marijuana industry here and more than 8,800 active employees in the medical marijuana space.

Despite the accomplishments of the last several years, Hoffman acknowledged Thursday that the CCC still has plenty of work ahead of it. Boosting participation in the industry among people from communities disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs is a perennial focus of the CCC, the agency is still working to make home delivery of marijuana more available and its vision for social consumption establishments has not yet come to fruition.

“We all recognize we have lots more to do to meet our legislative mandates, to live up to our mission statement, to meet our commitment of making Massachusetts the role model for this industry for the entire country. So we do have a lot of work to do,” the chairman said. He added, “We’re going to get what we need to done and we’re going to build an industry that, as I said, is a role model for the rest of the country. And I’m very proud to be part of it. Now, let’s go back to work.”

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