This week marked the latest step in a years-long process of incremental cannabis reform in the state of Massachusetts as just yesterday state regulators ratified the latest set of rules for the recreational cannabis market which included approvals for both social consumption and home delivery.
In November of 2008, Massachusetts voters approved a measure to effectively decriminalize cannabis possession statewide so that getting busted with any amount of weed under an ounce would thereby be punishable only by a $100 fine and no criminal charges.
Four years later, in November of 2012, 63% of Massachusetts voters came out in favor of a ballot initiative with the inauspicious name of Question 3, the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative, which took effect on January 1, 2013. The new law made legal the possession and use of up to a 60-day supply of medical marijuana for patients who successfully register with the state after being referred by a physician.
Right on schedule, in November of 2016 the state established a taxed and regulated recreational cannabis market with a successful vote in favor of Question 4. On December 15th of the same year, Massachusetts residents were entitled to grow up to 12 cannabis plants per household. Both residents and visitors were also allowed to have up to one ounce of dried flower/buds or up to five grams of hash on them, or up to ten ounces of weed stored at home. Home growers are allowed flexibility on that storage limit based on the size of their grow, and they are allowed to give away up to an ounce at a time.
Thank goodness for that because it took another two years before the first two recreational cannabis dispensaries opened on November 20th of 2018 allowing adults to purchase weed legally in a state whose previous claim to cannabis shame was being the first state to officially ban the plant way back in 1911 when the sale of “Indian hemp” was prohibited. Over the course of the next two months, cannabis consumers would fork over $24 million in legal weed sales allowing the suits in the state capital to pinch the sack for about $4 million in tax revenues.
That’s right, it took over 100 years but legal weed was back in The Bay State and, as evidenced by yesterday’s regulatory update, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) continues to look for ways to appease an ever-growing pro-cannabis voting bloc. Unfortunately, they’re also trying to appease a dying gaggle of anti-cannabis blowhards screeching about kids and crime and a shitload of other things that have nothing to do with cannabis.
SMILE, YOU’RE ON CANNABIS CAMERA
As television resolutions get higher, and couches continue to get comfier, more Americans are turning to the convenience of the internet to order… well… just about anything you can imagine. Hell, even Amazon sells every imported ingredient for a toxic vape pen except for the one non-toxic ingredient, the actual cannabis (give them time…) But food delivery, for example, is a pretty fair comparison to cannabis delivery, and that market is projected to outpace the growth of on-site dining at a clip of 3:1 over the next five years.
So getting perfectly legal cannabis delivered to your home should be a no-brainer, but Massachusetts isn’t the only state where delivery initially stalled. Colorado was the first state in the country to tax and regulate the recreational use of cannabis by adults back in 2014, but it was not until this year – half a decade later – that the governor approved the home delivery of cannabis.
Tuesday’s announcement in Massachusetts should have been a cause to celebrate, but it comes with a barbed and baited hook attached that has many cannabis advocates unenthused, to say the least.
In an attempt to appease state law enforcement agencies who were still arresting hundreds of people annually for weed despite nearly a decade of “decriminalization”, the CCC included in the new regs a ridiculous mandate that delivery drivers must wear and activate a body camera every time they exit their vehicle while working and record all transactions.
This provision rightfully faced harsh criticism when it was proposed this summer, but the CCC says that the complaints of invasion of privacy were outweighed by the heavy-handed influence of nosy cops. Of course, the CCC says that the footage will only be required to be kept on file for 30 days and that a licensee “shall make video footage available to a law enforcement officer acting in his or her official capacity” only by court order or search warrant.
The law enforcement agencies in favor of this controversial regulation argue that weed delivery drivers are prime targets for robbery due to the nature of the business and the potential for carrying large amounts of cash. The law already mandated that the vehicle itself be outfitted with cameras, but they say they want awkward-ass bodycam video as well every single time someone buys a bag of legal weed.
Don’t worry, they tell you, they won’t be looking at footage of you buying weed, until they decide to, of course.
If you have ever used the home food delivery services we referenced above (and the odds are growing that you have) you’ll know that feeding yourself that way is not cheap. Yes, those consumers can pay by credit card (gettin’ to that in a minute), but sheesh that giant bag of PF Chang’s delivery is way more valuable on the streets than an 8th of exotic herb in most markets. We better bodycam up those food delivery dudes and dudettes as well… hell, body armor them up, you can’t be too careful, right?
Nothing good comes of this. It is an unnecessary added expense for startup businesses, it is a complete violation of the core American value of personal sovereignty, and it is just plain stupid. People rob banks for fuck’s sake. You think your Logitech webcam is going to end crime?
Overall, however, we feel that the significance of home delivery still outweighs the ignorance of police surveillance of peaceful pot deals.
The fact of the matter is, as soon as the Federal Government gets its head out of its ass and passes cannabis banking reform, almost all risk evaporates for cannabis delivery companies. As soon as they can accept credit and debit cards as online payment options, the vast majority of the cash handling duties vanish. If law enforcement agencies were truly interested in protecting communities, their voice in support of banking reform would go a long way to prove it.
SOCIAL CONSUMPTION… SOMEDAY
Also included in Tuesday’s amended regulations was language to establish a pilot program* for social consumption of cannabis.
* “Pilot program” is political speak for “let’s kick this can as far down the road as we can before we deal with it”
Industry insiders predict months, if not years, of due process and consideration by the CCC before Massachusetts residents and visitors can enjoy on-site consumption at cannabis dispensaries and lounges.
No, this is not the instant gratification we all crave these days, but it is a progressive step in the right direction inspired by successful cannabis-related events like the Terptown Throwdown in Spencer, Massachusetts which gained 11th-hour approval for on-site consumption for medical marijuana patients at their event this past July. The positive vibes – and positive cash flow – that events like this bring to their communities are what fuel the fires of cannabis reform.
WE LIKE DEM APPLES
For the most part, east coast cannabis reform has been more fizz than pop so far so it is good to see the Birthplace of Freedom raising the bar.
Crucial aspects of comprehensive cannabis reform like the right to grow your own at home and the right to give it away if you choose to are allowances that some other “legal” states simply will not permit.
In their first six months of recreational sales, Massachusetts weed lovers purchased over three million units of cannabis products, spending an average of $44 per product. The market grew month over month with aggregate six-month sales totals of roughly $140 million.
Massachusetts has the distinction of being the first state on the eastern seaboard to pass recreational marijuana regulations and they have certainly benefitted from the proximity of neighboring states and the ineptitude of neighboring states’ lawmakers who are dragging their feet on their own reform.
It is estimated that as much as 50% of retail sales in Massachusetts are from border-hopping New Yorkers – it’s an INVASION!
It will be interesting to see what impact is had on the Massachusetts market if New York ever gets its act together. Sales of cannabis flower/buds make up about 50% of the total revenues in the Massachusetts market thus far, but Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York recently said he is considering banning smokable cannabis products completely when his state finally goes “legal”. That’ll just mean more mo eh for Massachusetts.
The state was predicted to haul in up to a half a billion in cannabis sales this year. It is certainly no pipe dream to figure on that number doubling once home delivery and social consumption become a reality. By 2021 cannabis sales in the state are predicted to account for 6.7% of TOTAL cannabis sales in the U.S.
Yeah, boy… Beard Bros. Boston has a pretty sweet ring to it and we definitely know a thing or two about growing green monstahs!