Massachusetts Cannabis Dispensary Laws

PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 14, 2022
 
Massachusetts residents voted to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis in the year 2008, and Massachusetts then became the 18th state to legalize medical marijuana when voters passed a ballot measure in 2012. Consumption of recreational cannabis has been legal in Massachusetts since December 15, 2016. The Cannabis Control Commission in Massachusetts awards a wide range of licenses, including cultivators, marijuana retailers, research facilities, testing laboratories, transporters, craft marijuana cooperatives, and microbusinesses.

There are 386 marijuana retailer licenses currently approved by Massachusetts’ Cannabis Control Commission, and applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Massachusetts state law requires priority licensing review of Registered Marijuana Dispensaries who serve patients for medical use and defined Economic Empowerment Applicants who qualify for its social equity programs.

This page is informational only and should not be considered legal advice. 

Massachusetts Cannabis Laws

An overview of the medical and recreational marijuana laws in Massachusetts.

Who can purchase cannabis in Massachusetts and what are the limits?

  • You must be 21 years or older to purchase or grow adult-use marijuana. You’ll need a government-issued ID to buy from a Marijuana Retailer in Massachusetts.
  • Massachusetts law permits you to carry up to one ounce of marijuana. You may possess up to 10 ounces in your home.
  • Qualifying medical marijuana patients over 18 years of age can possess up to a 60-day supply of marijuana but must be approved by a physician and certified by the state.
  • Qualifying Pediatric Patients under the age of 18 must be approved by two Massachusetts-licensed certifying physicians, who must diagnose them as having either a debilitating life-limiting illness or condition.

Are there any qualifying conditions for medical marijuana patients in Massachusetts?

Conditions approved for medical marijuana in Massachusetts include: 

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) 
  • Cancer 
  • Crohn’s disease 
  • Glaucoma 
  • HIV/AIDS 
  • Hepatitis C 
  • Multiple Sclerosis 
  • Parkinson’s disease

Is home cultivation allowed in Massachusetts?

Yes, recreational marijuana can be grown by adults aged 21 or older. Massachusetts law allows you to grow up to six cannabis plants in your home for personal use, or up to 12 plants for two or more adults. Home Cultivation must only take place in an enclosed area where the marijuana plants are not visible to the public.

Where can cannabis be consumed in Massachusetts?

Cannabis consumption is limited to private property out of public view. It’s illegal to consume marijuana in public. You cannot use cannabis in any form—including smoking, vaping, or eating—in public places or on federal land. If you have more than one ounce of cannabis in your home, it must be locked in a secure place.

It’s illegal to drive while under the influence of cannabis. Take public transportation, contact a ride-share, or catch a lift with a sober friend. It’s also illegal to drive across state lines with cannabis. It’s against the law to transport it on a plane, train, boat, or another mode of transportation outside of Massachusetts, or even send it by mail to anyone.

Cannabis Retail Licensing in Massachusetts

Everything you need to know about opening a marijuana retail establishment in Massachusetts.

What state agency is in charge of cannabis licensing in Massachusetts?

The Cannabis Control Commission regulates licensees that operate in the legal adult-use and medical-use marijuana markets in Massachusetts. This includes reviewing applications and issuing licenses for adult-use Marijuana Establishments (MEs) and Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MTCs), formerly known as Registered Marijuana Dispensaries (RMDs). The Commission’s goal is to assist applicants and licensees with navigating the application and licensing processes and remaining compliant with applicable laws, regulations, and policies.

Who can apply for a Cannabis dispensary license?

Any qualified applicant can apply for a cannabis dispensary license in Massachusetts. Research the laws and regulations governing adult-use or medical-use marijuana for more information about the regulatory requirements for licensure in the city or town you wish to operate. 


Applicants can determine the type of license they want to obtain depending on whether they want to operate in the adult- or medical-use market and how they want to operate their business.

What is the process for obtaining an adult-use cannabis retail license in Massachusetts?

  1. Review Massachusetts Cannabis Laws 

Research the laws and regulations governing adult-use or medical-use marijuana for more information about the regulatory requirements for licensure in the city or town you wish to operate. 

  1. Design a Business Plan

Begin researching and writing the operational plans for your business—all plans must be compliant with adult-use or medical-use regulations. Some plans include but are not limited to: a business plan, a diversity plan, a security plan, a plan for positive impact, and a plan to remain compliant with local codes and ordinances.

  1. Due Diligence

Gather information related to the persons and entities who will be listed on the license and who will have control over the business. When you are ready to submit your application, you must include identifying information about each person and entity to be listed.

  1. Community Outreach

As part of the application process, you must submit evidence that a Community Outreach Meeting occurred and that a Host Community Agreement has been signed with the municipality. 

  1. Submit Application

Submit your license application online along with applicable license and background check fees. Visit the Massachusetts Cannabis Industry Portal (MassCIP) to begin the process for an adult-use license application or an MTC license application. 

  1. Pending Approval

The Commission will review the application based on its priority status and when it was submitted. Within 90 days of your license application, the Commission will issue either a provisional license or a rejection. The Commission will perform inspections and request that background checks and fingerprinting be performed by all individuals listed on the license. 

A certification form will be sent to the host municipality to confirm your establishment is in compliance with local codes and ordinances. Once these steps have been completed, the Commission may consider your application for a final license.

  1. Final Inspection 

Prior to opening, an additional inspection will then be conducted. Upon review of the inspection report, your establishment will receive a notification that it is allowed to commence operations and start operating as a legal marijuana business.

Some things to be conscious of when applying to become a licensee:

  • The Commission reviews applications for licensure in a certain order set by regulations. An initial review of your application may not occur right away as other applications may have priority or expedited review.
  • The Commission will notify applicants and licensees of all the next steps. Please ensure that all requests for information are fully complied with in order to reduce the time to obtain licensure, if appropriate.

What are the application and license fees in Massachusetts?

  • Initial application fee for a marijuana retailer license is $1500 and the annual license fee is $10,000 per year. The same fees apply to social consumption establishments and marijuana delivery operators as well.
  • The application fee for a marijuana treatment center is $3500.
  • Certain fees are waived automatically for Economic Empowerment Priority Applicants (EE), Social Equity Program Participants (SEP), and Minority-, Women-, and Veteran-owned businesses (DBE) that meet certain eligibility criteria.

Has Massachusetts incorporated any social equity provisions?

Massachusetts’ Social Equity Program is a free, statewide technical assistance and training program that provides participants with education, skill-based training, and tools for success in the cannabis industry. Upon completion of this program, participants will have acquired tools and training to apply for and obtain a license through the Cannabis Control Commission. However, completion of the program does not guarantee licensure.

SEP benefits include free technical assistance and training through vendors certified by the Commission and expedited license application reviews for individuals who maintain 10% ownership in the business.

For those who maintain majority ownership in the business, the following fee waivers and exclusive license types are also available:

    • Waived application fees 
    • Waived seed-to-sale Metrc monthly program fees
    • Exclusive access to Social Consumption and Delivery-Only License types for up to a minimum of three years.
    • A 50% reduction of annual license fees, regardless of license type.

Is one entity allowed to apply for more than one license?

Yes, but all licenses may not be awarded.

Applicants who want to grow and cultivate adult-use marijuana may apply for one of three ME (marijuana establishment) licenses: Marijuana Cultivation license, Craft Marijuana Cooperative license, or Microbusiness license. 

Applicants who want to assist registered patients with medical marijuana can obtain an MTC (marijuana treatment center) license, which will allow them to cultivate, produce, dispense, and deliver marijuana to registered patients and their caregivers.

Massachusetts Cannabis Retail and Dispensary Establishment Laws

Learn how to remain compliant with Massachusetts’s cannabis retail laws.

Where can a cannabis retail establishment be located?

Each applicant must disclose the location of their proposed ME or MTC. A licensee is limited to performing operations at a single location with the exception of Craft Marijuana Cooperatives and MTC licensees. When selecting a location, the local and municipality guidelines in which the establishment intends to operate must be adhered to.

After identifying the proposed location where operations will be licensed, the applicant is required to submit property interest documentation, which may be demonstrated by one of the following:

  1. clear legal title to the proposed site;
  2. an option to purchase the proposed site; 
  3. a legally enforceable agreement to give such title; or 
  4. documentation from the owner evidencing permission to use the premises.

Whom can Massachusetts cannabis retailers sell to?

Licensed marijuana retail establishments may sell cannabis to adults aged 21 and older, with a valid government-issued identification card, and employees are required to check purchasers’ IDs before making the sale.

What products can a Massachusetts marijuana retailer sell?

Marijuana stores may sell cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabis products, cannabis edibles, cannabis extracts, seedlings, infused tinctures and topicals, and marijuana paraphernalia.

Can medical marijuana and recreational cannabis be sold in the same dispensary?

Yes, Medical marijuana dispensaries that obtain a recreational marijuana dispensary license could operate both entities in the same/shared location.

What taxes are collected on retail cannabis in Massachusetts?

Adult-use retail marijuana is subject to
  • a state sales tax of 6.25%
  • a state excise tax of 10.75%
  • a local option for cities or towns (up to 3%)

How many cannabis business licenses will be issued in Massachusetts?

There is no set limit on the number of business licensees that could be granted under the program, but a licensee can not operate at more than one location, except marijuana cooperatives. Regulators could stop issuing new licenses if an advisory committee determines that “market equilibrium is deficient.”

What are the packing and labeling requirements for a cannabis retail store in Massachusetts?

Prior to Marijuana being sold or transferred, a Marijuana Establishment shall ensure the placement of a legible, firmly affixed label on which the wording is no less than 1/16 inch in size on each package of Marijuana that it makes available for retail sale containing at a minimum the following information: 

  1. The name and registration number, telephone number, and email address of the Licensee that produced the Marijuana, together with the retail Licensee's business telephone number, email address, and website information, if any.
  2. The date that the Marijuana Establishment packaged the contents and a statement of which Licensee performed the packaging; 
  3. A batch number, sequential serial number, and bar code when used, to identify the batch associated with manufacturing and Processing; 
  4. Net weight or volume in U.S. customary and metric units, listed in that order;
  5. The full Cannabinoid Profile of the Marijuana contained within the package, including THC and other Cannabinoid levels; 
  6. A statement and a seal certifying that the product has been tested for contaminants, that there were no adverse findings, and the date of testing in accordance with M.G.L. 

Packaging cannot be designed to appeal to minors and must be child-resistant. Warnings must be included on possible adverse events, along with the number for Massachusetts’s poison control.

What are the marketing and advertising regulations in Massachusetts pertaining to marijuana sales?

The following Advertising activities are permitted:

  1. A Marijuana Establishment may develop a Brand Name to be used in labeling, signage, and other materials; provided however, that use of medical symbols, images of Marijuana or Marijuana Products, or related Paraphernalia images that are appealing to persons younger than 21 years old, and colloquial references to Marijuana and Cannabis are prohibited from use in the Brand Name 
  2. Brand Name Sponsorship of a charitable, sporting, or similar event, subject to conditions.  3. A Marijuana Establishment may display, in secure, locked cases, samples of each product offered for sale and subject to the requirements of 935 CMR 500.110. These display cases may be transparent. 
  3. All Advertising produced by or on behalf of a Marijuana Establishment for Marijuana or Marijuana Products shall include the following warning:

"This product has not been analyzed or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There is limited information on the side effects of using this product, and there may be associated health risks. Marijuana use during pregnancy and breastfeeding may pose potential harm. It is against the law to drive or operate machinery when under the influence of this product. KEEP THIS PRODUCT AWAY FROM CHILDREN. There may be health risks associated with the consumption of this product. Marijuana can impair concentration, coordination, and judgment. The impairment effects of Edibles may be delayed by two hours or more. In case of accidental ingestion, contact the poison control hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or 9-1-1. This product may be illegal outside of MA."

Cannabis Tracking and Reporting in Massachusetts

Every regulated cannabis market has its own tracking and reporting requirements. Find here how Massachusetts monitors commercial cannabis activity.

What are the tracking, reporting, and inventory control requirements for Massachusetts marijuana establishments?

Most states require dispensaries and cannabis stores to track and trace all of their cannabis products for regulatory and compliance reporting requirements. Records identifying the source of each ingredient must include the date of receipt of the ingredient, vendor’s name and address, name of the ingredient, etc. A compliant POS software system helps you do all of that without any worries or violations.

A Marijuana Establishment shall:

  1. Establish inventory controls and procedures for the conduct of inventory reviews, and comprehensive inventories of Marijuana Products in the process of cultivation, and finished, stored Marijuana;
  2. Conduct a monthly inventory of Marijuana in the process of cultivation and finished, stored Marijuana;
  3. Conduct a comprehensive annual inventory at least once every year after the date of the previous comprehensive inventory;
  4. Promptly transcribe inventories if taken by use of an oral recording device.

What is Massachusetts’s official cannabis monitoring system?

Massachusetts’ licensees must utilize METRC seed-to-sale system to track all marijuana products being cultivated, manufactured, transported, tested, and sold in the state.

Is Cova compliant with Massachusetts’s cannabis retail reporting requirements?

Yes. Cova's Cannabis Dispensary POS Software and inventory management system adheres to all reporting requirements, has 2-way integration with Metrc, and includes all the features needed to keep cannabis retailers compliant, including:

  • ID scanner for age and card verification
  • Integrated inventory and sales tracking and reporting
  • Built-in product equivalency conversions and purchase limit enforcement.
ron-segev

RON SEGEV

Cannabis Business Lawyer & Founding Partner, Segev LLP

Legally reviewed by

RON SEGEV

Ron Segev is the founding partner of Segev LLP. A practical-minded business lawyer with expertise in the cannabis industry, he represents cultivators, dispensaries, CBD extractors, oil extractors, food processors, media and marketing companies, consultancies, and other businesses in the legal cannabis market.

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