Cannabis cafes one step closer to becoming reality in Massachusetts

BOSTON — Could cannabis cafes be coming soon to Massachusetts more than five years after recreational marijuana was legalized in the state?

Lawmakers on Beacon Hill are cutting some of the red tape that’s been preventing social consumption sites from opening in the Bay State.

A legal technicality blocking cities and towns from being able to vote for themselves has been standing in the way.

Last week, the state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy expressed no opposition to new legislation that would bring cannabis cafes one step closer to becoming a reality.

The bill would help clear the way for six to 12 communities to opt into a three-year pilot program.

“This is about being honest about what people are doing,” said State Senator Julian Cyr, D-Truro. “You can take a ferry from Boston to Provincetown. You can purchase that cannabis, but there’s actually no legal place for you to consume it.”

Senator Cyr introduced legislation to address the technical problem that’s been stalling cannabis cafes from opening in select cities and towns.

The bill also tightens restrictions on contracts between marijuana businesses and host communities and establishes a Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund.

“I’ve come to see social consumption as a way that smaller-scale entrepreneurs can get into the cannabis market,” said Cyr.

Cannabis retailers have already begun partnering with ride-sharing services and some hotels to offer discounts to customers who may be too impaired to drive home.

Some are still raising public safety concerns.

“I don’t want to see it roll out tragically,” Dennis Galvin, President of the Massachusetts Association for Professional Law Enforcement. “There will be people’s lives at stake. I hope it’s given a thorough examination.”

Galvin, who worked for Massachusetts State Police for 30 years, said the lack of a breathalyzer-like test for marijuana use leaves uncertainty about enforcement.

“How do you regulate this? If you’re going to have intoxication as the purpose, is it a prudent policy to allow people to go to their cars and drive home afterwards?,” questioned Galvin.

The bill that’s moving forward on Beacon Hill includes language to allow residents to weigh in before cannabis cafes open in their communities.

The Cannabis Control Commission is now reviewing the legislation.

There’s still no concrete timeline of when we could see the first cannabis cafes start to open in Massachusetts.

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