Lawmakers in Massachusetts officially legalized cannabis home delivery and cafes. The Cannabis Control Commission voted 4-1 in approval of both measures.

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The state has already broadly legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes.

Massachusetts voters approved medical cannabis for patients diagnosed with qualifying health conditions back in 2012, with the passage of the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative.

Recreational marijuana became legal for Massachusetts residents over the age of 21 just a few years later, in 2016. 

Despite legalization, public consumption of cannabis is still strictly forbidden in Massachusetts and remains semi-criminalized, punishable by a ticket and a fine.

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Such restrictions leave otherwise law-abiding recreational users without an actual place to legally consume.

More often than not, apartment building residents are prohibited by their leases from consuming cannabis inside, forcing medical patients to risk losing their security deposits. Most hotels have similar policies banning smoking, leaving tourists to consume outside, for all to see, and smell!

Opponents of cannabis home delivery services have argued that delivery drivers would be at increased risk of being robbed, with Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael referring to cannabis delivery as “a tragedy waiting to happen.”

The new legislation also includes specific requirements for delivery drivers, including GPS monitoring, cameras, time restrictions, and others.

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Cannabis home delivery provides an invaluable service to those with serious medical conditions debilitating enough to prevent them from visiting a marijuana dispensary in person.

Plus, cannabis home delivery could mean one less stoned driver on the road.

Expressing support of the legislation, said Commissioner Shaleen Title, “I’m proud of implementing the will of the voters, who are clear that they wanted to see an industry that’s fair, that’s equitable, that has room for small businesses and isn’t going to be dominated by big conglomerates, and I think that we made a lot of progress towards that today.”

In an effort at criminal justice reform, for the first two years, only “social equity and economic empowerment applicants, which are categories of businesses owned by minorities, people with drug convictions and people who have lived and worked in communities disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition,” will be permitted to apply.

According to Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steve Hoffman, “We feel like we have got a good balance between trying to meet the will of the voters but recognizing that there are concerns from public health and a public safety standpoint.”

The only dissenter in the group, Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan, expressed concern regarding public health issues relating to delivery and social consumption of cannabis, saying, “I think we need to stand up this industry, making sure the retail and cultivation and microbusinesses all get priority before we start to do home delivery and social consumption. We talk about social consumption, we’re looking for places for people to go and consume this product, mostly by smoking or vaping. I have concerns about that.”

Allowing business owners to open cannabis cafes has the potential to benefit the entire community, creating designated spaces whereof age, law-abiding cannabis users can partake without fear of prosecution.

Separate licenses, costing on the order of $1500 each plus annual 10K renewal fees, will be required for businesses interested in either delivering cannabis to individual homes or opening cannabis cafes intended for social consumption.