Control commission takes another step toward cannabis cafes in Mass.

State regulators nixed a pilot program that would have tested cannabis cafes in a dozen communities, diving into a formal regulatory process instead.

In this Nov. 13, 2019, file photo, patrons smoke marijuana at Lowell's Original Cannabis Cafe, a legal marijuana establishment, in Los Angeles. AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File

Years after legalizing recreational cannabis and welcoming its first pot shops, Massachusetts still lacks dedicated places for public consumption — imagine liquor stores, but no bars.

The 2016 ballot question that greenlit adult-use marijuana also allowed Massachusetts to license cannabis cafes and other so-called social consumption sites, but efforts to get them off the ground have lagged.

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While adults over the age of 21 can legally purchase cannabis products at any number of licensed dispensaries located throughout Massachusetts, smoking or consuming marijuana in public remains illegal, leaving some users — those in public housing, for example — with limited options. 

Earlier this week, state cannabis regulators voted to scrap a pilot program that would have gradually tested out cannabis cafes in a dozen communities, opting instead to dive into statewide licensing and regulation framework, State House News Service reported.


The move will allow Massachusetts to get social consumption sites up and running “a little quicker,” Nurys Camargo, a commissioner with the Cannabis Control Commission, told reporters after Monday’s meeting, according to State House News Service. 

“Everyone’s wondering: what is it? What is the regulatory framework? What are the licenses?” Camargo said, per SHNS. “I think that now, we can really start thinking about what does that look like, especially now that we don’t have a pilot project in place.”

Commissioner Bruce Stebbins, meanwhile, said the pilot program would have involved a “burdensome and expensive” process, according to GBH

The news outlet reported that all commissioners voted in favor of nixing the pilot, with the exception of Commissioner Kimberly Roy, who said she wanted more information on impacts to public health, public safety, and equity.

According to GBH, Camargo said the commissioners are inviting public outreach on social consumption before diving into the formal regulatory process, with a virtual listening session slated for June.


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