• Liquor store owners take steps toward selling legal pot

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    BOSTON - Liquor store owners want to get in on the budding legal marijuana business in the Bay State.

    Since last November's ballot petition made way for the regulation, sale and taxation of recreational marijuana, many have been interested in entering the business.

    The Massachusetts Package Stores Association board voted last month to support their members' decisions on applying for retail marijuana licenses that are set to start in July of 2018. However, according to an interview given to the Boston Herald, Frank Anzalotti, executive director of the association, said the organization "will remain neutral on the question."

    Despite their neutral stance on the issue, they will still work to "provide research, data, and information to any of [their] members who want to pursue this further."

    The association says their members are already accustomed to selling highly regulated products and are hoping that the regulations for marijuana follow the same suit as the existing laws for alcohol sale.

    The new law, which went into effect Dec. 15, allows Massachusetts adults 21 and older to have up to an ounce of marijuana in public, and up to 10 ounces at home. It also authorizes retail sales and growing facilities that are expected to open in mid-2018.

    "Now that it's legal, there are package store owners who are definitely interested," said Bob Selby, owner of Kappy's Liquors in Peabody and Danvers, who added that he would consider retail marijuana sales in his stores.

    Jim Borghesani, spokesman for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA), which pushed for legalization, said it's "ironic" that alcohol retailers want to get into the pot business.
    According to Borghesani, the package store association amassed around $75,000 to the campaign to defeat Question 4, which suggests the alcohol industry is worried about losing market share.

    A new report from the Cannabiz Consumer Group estimates that the beer industry could lose more than $2 billion in retail sales to pot sales nationally. A similar report from the New York-based research firm Cowen & Company said craft beer sales could take a substantial hit if more states legalize recreational marijuana.

    Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, which also opposed marijuana legalization, said he expects some members will get into the pot business, just as some marijuana retailers will join his group.

    "As long as they are following the law, we would welcome them into our membership," he said. "We have nothing in our bylaws prohibiting one of them from joining us."

    Hurst said a host of questions remain about marijuana sales  such as how retail marijuana business will be taxed, where shops will be located, and how many shops will be allowed in a given area.

    Yet, the pot business, which was valued by analysts at roughly $6.9 billion nationally in 2016, could be very profitable for those who make a go of it, he said. "There's no question this could be a booming industry," he added.

    The state cannabis control commission is to be appointed and chaired by state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and will outline the regulations for pot shop licensing. Anzalotti, however, believes regulations will most likely not allow for the sale of cannabis in package stores.

    Nevertheless, should they allow it, there will be restrictions on customer access to weed products, which will only be dispensed by store employees.

    Other states where recreational marijuana has been legalized have prohibited cannabis sale in liquor stores.

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