In the first year of legal cannabis sales, Massachusetts’s retailers brought in a total of $393.7 million in gross revenue, according to new numbers from the state. The state’s Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) noted the first year also helped establish benchmarks that will enable the Commonwealth to measure its progress toward strengthening a safe, effective and equitable legal cannabis industry.
For comparison, Colorado’s first year of legal cannabis sales in 2014 clocked in at a value of about $684 million, despite the fact that Colorado has about 1 million less residents than Massachusetts. However, state representatives were still positive about the numbers.
“Marijuana retailers and consumers should be commended for participating in an extremely smooth rollout of the legal adult-use cannabis industry in Massachusetts for the first year,” Commission Chairman Steven J. Hoffman said in a statement. “Hundreds of millions of dollars in sales are one measure of success, but I am even prouder of the way in which marijuana establishments have worked with the commission to gain and preserve compliance with our regulations and patrons continue to inform themselves about the law and their responsibilities when they visit Massachusetts stores.”
Commissioners Britte McBride and Jennifer Flanagan also released a statement that focused on the public safety success Massachusetts saw in the last year.
“I am confident that as the industry evolves, the commission will uphold our mission statement to build a world-class agency that honors the will of the voters and continue to address the public health and safety of all citizens,” Flanagan said.
Perhaps the most widely recognized name on the commission, Shaleen Title has been one of the main regulators in the nation talking about and attempting to build cannabis policy that addresses the impact the War on Drugs has had on communities of color.
“Over the past year, the commission has been persistent in its efforts to set and implement nation-leading policies that support full participation in the adult-use cannabis marketplace by communities that have been harmed by the War on Drugs,” Title said. “I hope the voters who supported legalization in Massachusetts recognize the progress we are making and continue to work with us to achieve the industry they envisioned.”
Title also made waves this week separately when, in an interview with CBS, she addressed municipal corruption in the state’s cannabis industry. She said that cannabis corruption is “not in every city or town, but I think the environment is ripe for it,” she said.
The CCC also released a lot of data that gives a snapshot of the market. Currently, it has licensed 33 retailers now open across the state. The CCC also has another 54 provisional licenses in the pipeline. When all those stores are open, it will nearly triple the access to legal cannabis in Massachusetts.
The commission said in total they have issued licenses to 227 “marijuana establishments,” “including cultivators, product manufacturers, microbusinesses, and more.”
Five of those permits went to people participating in the Certified Economic Empowerment program, to provide an economic leg up to those companies composed of people from disproportionately policed areas, which means about 2% of the state’s industry is in the hands of people taking part in that program. Another of Massachusetts’s equity programs, the Social Equity Program, said that it certified that 140 people qualify for the program.
“The majority of nearly 140 individuals who were certified for the program are currently participating in the commission’s 14-course entrepreneur track through April,” the state said. “One Social Equity Program participant is currently operating a licensed retail Marijuana Establishment.”
The state has licensed 71 cultivation facilities, five of them outdoors. Legal operators in Massachusetts now have a combined 2.1 million square feet of canopy.
As of Nov. 7, 6,700 people are currently employed in the Massachusetts cannabis industry. Two-thirds of that workforce is male and 73.4% identify as white. (According to the U.S. Census, about 80% of the state’s population is white.)
This week, the Boston city council voted to overhaul the city’s licensing process to address the disparity in the race gap of who actually owns the local dispensaries in town. The AP reported that the proposal by Councilor Kim Janey also requires the city to make sure at least half of its marijuana licenses go to companies from communities affected by the War on Drugs.
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