Pot licensing begins Monday, but jumping into budding industry won't be easy

Pot licensing begins Monday, but jumping into budding industry won't be easy

BOSTON — The process for marijuana retailers in Massachusetts to become licensed officially begins Monday.

It's been more than a year since recreational marijuana became legal in Massachusetts.

Since then, the Cannabis Commission has been going through a rigorous process, including 10 listening sessions with hundreds of public comments to deliberate on 150 policies.

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In the end, there are nine types of licenses, from cultivator, to researcher and retailer.

The Cannabis Control Commission created the licensing process to ensure marijuana establishments are safe, equitable and effective. For the last six months, the commission has been working through the details before recreational marijuana becomes legal in the state.

However, jumping into the budding industry may not be as easy as you may think.

For starters, there will be different "rounds" for eligible applicants, the first one favoring businesses who already sell medical marijuana.

The first round of licenses will also be open to applicants in a special social justice category.

Those applicants should meet six different criteria to prove they've been disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition, such as with a marijuana-related arrest, or by living in an area where those arrests happen more often.

"A lot of these urban areas where people were adversely impacted by prohibition because of the disproportionate number of arrests for people of color compared with people who are Caucasian," said Jim Borghesani, of Regulate Mass.

After that, cultivators, micro businesses and labs can apply for licenses on May 1. Then, on June 1, retailers and manufacturers can apply.

Another problem applicants may face is the cost of the application, set at $500, but it gets worse. The licenses themselves range anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.

Then, there are even more requirements.

"You have to show a good business plan, a level of security that's acceptable to the Cannabis Control Commission, making sure there's no diversion of product into the black market," said Borghesani.

But, if you're looking into taking out a loan to finance your application, banks may not be the best option.

"It's a problem because it's still illegal at the federal level, and banks are worried about losing their federal charter," said Borghesani.

However, regulations around that may still change with new legislation, where equal access to banking will hopefully become available as the industry grows across the country.

Finally, applicants must all pass a background check and submit a business plan as sales are set to start on July 1.

There are some cities and towns in the commonwealth where voters decided not to make recreational marijuana legal.

The next public meeting for the Cannabis Commission is Tuesday morning.

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