For the past several years, Colorado, Washington and Oregon have served as the testbeds for policies governing state-legal cannabis markets. But now it’s Massachusetts’ turn.
Massachusetts, whose residents voted in 2016 to legalize cannabis for adult use, is on the cusp of implementing experimental, never-before-seen rules that will be closely watched by both the cannabis industry and regulators around the country.
Last month, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission, the regulatory agency tasked with overseeing the rollout and implementation of Massachusetts’ new adult-use cannabis industry, released the final rules that will govern the market.
Massachusetts will be the first state east of the Mississippi to implement a market for legal cannabis. With Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey and others on the east coast all seriously considering legislation to fully legalize marijuana in their states, elected officials from across the region will be keeping a close eye on the Bay State and how its program compares with others in the so called “wild west.”
Many of the rules have been seen before (child-resistant packaging requirements; separate licenses for cultivators, producers, and retailers; etc.) and are in effect in existing adult-use states. What’s noteworthy about Massachusetts’ new rules, though, are the ones that have never been tried before and could serve as a blueprint for other states that are seriously considering the full legalization of cannabis.
Perhaps most noteworthy is that Massachusetts is seeking to be the first state to make an attempt at rectifying some of the social injustices that have been a result of marijuana prohibition. It is a fact that the enforcement of cannabis laws has disproportionately affected people of color and people who live in economically disadvantaged communities. Nearly 80% of people in federal prison for drug offences and almost 60% in state prison are black or latino, despite the fact these groups use and sell drugs at similar rates to whites, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. And yet, for the most part, people of color and people who have convictions for non-violent cannabis offenses have so far been largely excluded from meaningful participation in the new cannabis economy.