WORCESTER – Boston will see its first retail pot shop open in a few weeks, and several Central Massachusetts marijuana businesses progressed with their license applicationsas well, following action by the Cannabis Control Commission Thursday.
Pure Oasis is not only the first retail license applicant in Boston to receive final approval, but it is also the first economic empowerment priority applicant statewide to be awarded a final license. Seven other economic empowerment applicants, including New Dia, 118 Cambridge St., Worcester, have received provisional licenses.
Pure Oasis won’t be allowed to open its store until it receives a letter to commence operations, following a final check on local OKs, which usually takes a few weeks.
“Today is an important milestone but I want to emphasize it’s just the first step,” Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman told reporters.
He said the objective of the 2017 state law regulating adult-use marijuana was to help people in communities disproportionately harmed by previous drug laws.
When asked why it took more than a year after the first retail marijuana stores opened in Leicester and Northampton for Boston to get its first license, Hoffman emphasized the role that municipalities play as partners.
“Every city and town, including Boston, is trying to do it right,” he said.
Central Massachusetts applicants had their own bit of drama, as commissioners voted to table action on provisional retail licenses, because of concerns about corporate control, for The Botanist Inc. The matter may be taken up at the next meeting, after commission staff prepare an opinion on whether The Botanist’s parent company, Acreage Holdings Inc., is exceeding the cap on licenses and how much control it exerts over affiliate companies.
One proposed retail site would be co-located with the Botanist’s medical marijuana dispensary at 65 Pullman St., Worcester. The other would be at 235 Hartford Turnpike, Shrewsbury.
According to a CCC investigative status memorandum, Acreage Holdings owns several management companies that provide key services to marijuana applicants and licensees. These management companies have contractual arrangements with other marijuana companies applying for licenses, or in the process of getting a final license, including Patient Centric of Martha’s Vineyard Ltd. and Health Circle Inc.
State marijuana regulations limit the number of licenses one business can hold to three in each license category. At issue is whether Acreage Holdings, through its affiliations and controlling interests, is holding more than three.
The commission voted to approve action on several other Central Massachusetts license applications: Baked Beans LLC, Uxbridge, for product manufacturer renewal; final licenses for Blackstone Valley Naturals LLC microbusiness in Uxbridge, Caregiver-Patient Connection retailer in Fitchburg, and Resinate’s vertically-integrated medical marijuana treatment center with cultivation in Douglas and product manufacturing and treatment center in Worcester; and provisional licenses for Cultivate Holdings LLC Tier 5 cultivation and product manufacturing in Uxbridge, Grass Appeal LLC Tier 3 cultivation and retailer in Uxbridge, and Resinate’s adult-use Tier 3 cultivation and product manufacturing in Douglas and retail license in Worcester.
Also at the meeting, Commissioner Shaleen Title presented an update on diversity plans, looking at demographic data of people involved in the industry between October 2018 and January 2020.
Two-thirds of agent applicants are male, in both 2018 and 2020 snapshots. The proportion of applicants who are white increased from 70.8% to 74.1%.
“It’s pretty clear the diversity plans have not been implemented as expected, or required,” Title said.
Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan suggested the commission reach out to license applicants across the state to see how diversity could be achieved in their region. Some regions are sparsely populated, lack public transportation and are not racially diverse. But there may be other measures, such as socioeconomic diversity, that could fit the requirement.
“If we’re going to have an industry that encompasses the entire state, we’re certainly going to have to think outside the box,” Flanagan said, “so that more people are included in this.”