Massachusetts Marijuna Dispensary Laws

Massachusetts Cannabis Dispensary Laws and Licensing Procedures

Updated on March 19, 2020.

In 2018, Massachusetts opened their Adult Use cannabis market in addition to their robust medical marijuana program. In 2019, the state saw more than $420 million (no pun intended) in recreational cannabis sales.

Below, we’ve provided some answers to as many questions regarding cannabis licensing and dispensary laws in Massachusetts. You can expect answers on cannabis tracking and reporting, We will continue to update this page regularly as new details emerge.

Related resources:

 Oklahoma Dispensary Laws / Washington Dispensary LawsColorado Dispensary Laws / California Dispensary Laws / Missouri Dispensary Laws / Michigan Dispensary Laws / Nevada Dispensary Laws / Montana Dispensary Laws / Alaska Dispensary Laws

Cannabis Tracking and Reporting in Massachusetts

What are the tracking, reporting, and inventory control requirements for Massachusetts cannabis retailers?

In the application process, it is required for all applicants to show a detailed plan recordkeeping, inventory tracking, and diversion prevention. Every cannabis business must implement an approved Seed-to-Sale System of Record (SOR) and Point of Sale system. All business records must be available for inspection by the Cannabis Control Commission upon request. All records must be kept for at least two years.

Business records include the following:
• Job descriptions and employee information
• Documentation of all employee training
• Documentation of periodic performance evaluations
• Assets and liabilities
• Monetary transactions
• Books of accounts, including checks, invoices, vouches, etc.
• Sales records including the quantity, form, and cost of marijuana products
• Salary and wages paid to each employee
• Waste disposal records

Any discrepancies in inventory must be reported to the CCC within 24 hours.

Is there an official state cannabis monitoring system in MA?

There is not one specific cannabis monitoring system that the state uses. The state has approved specific Seed-to-Sale SORs and Point of Sale systems.

Is Cova compliant with Massachusetts cannabis retailer reporting requirements?

Our team is actively working on the metrc integrations and a few compliance features. It will be ready by Q3. If you’d like to be notified, please submit the form here. We will let you know when we are in MA.

Massachusetts Dispensary Law

Who can purchase cannabis in Massachusetts?

Any adult over the age of 21 can purchase cannabis from a dispensary in Massachusetts. Medical marijuana patients can be under the age of 21, but those under the age of 18 are required to have medical marijuana recommendations from two licensed physicians.

How do you register as a medical marijuana patient in Massachusetts?

Qualifying patients can register and renew their medical marijuana status by visiting the state’s MMJ Online System. Before you can register online, a patient must get a certification from a licensed physician. Once you are certified, your healthcare provider will assign you a PIN number to register online. You will also need a valid form of identification and an up-to-date photograph of yourself. If approved, you will receive your MMJ card in the mail in one to two weeks.

If you’re unable to register online, you can also apply by paper. Although, this process does take longer.

The state of Massachusetts eliminated the annual fee for medical marijuana patients, but you still have to renew your registration every year. It costs $10 to replace a medical marijuana card.

Are there purchase limits for cannabis in Massachusetts?

Yes, there are purchase limits for adult-use cannabis in Massachusetts. Recreational users can purchase up to one ounce of cannabis or five grams of cannabis concentrate at a time.

Medical marijuana patients in Massachusetts are legally allowed to possess up to a 60-day supply of cannabis, as prescribed by their doctor, up to ten ounces.

Where can a MA dispensary be located?

The property proposed in your cannabis license application cannabis be located within 500 feet of a preexisting public or private school providing education through kindergarten to twelfth grade. Localities can reduce this distance.

There are more than 200 municipalities and townships in Massachusetts that do not allow cannabis businesses, so be sure to check local laws before proposing an address in your application.

What are the advertising restrictions for Massachusetts’ dispensaries?

In general, cannabis businesses can only market or advertise on platforms (television, radio, internet, mobile apps, social media, or other electronic modes of communication) if at least 85% of the audience is reasonably expected to be 21 years or older.

Cannabis businesses are allowed to sponsor charitable, sporting, or similar events. But they cannot advertise or market that connection unless at least 85% of the audience is reasonably expected to be 21 years or older.

Cannabis businesses in MA cannot do promotional gifts, giveaways, discounts, point-based reward systems, customer loyalty programs, coupons, or “free” or “donated” cannabis products. They also cannot advertise or market on clothing, dups, drink holders, apparel accessories, electronic equipment or accessories, sporting equipment, novelty items, or similar portable promotional items.

Are there any required warnings or statements for cannabis advertising and marketing in Massachusetts?

Any marketing or advertising created to be viewed by the public must include the statement “Please Consume Responsibly” in a conspicuous manner on the face of the advertisement. It must also include at least two of the following warnings in their entirety:
• “This product may cause impairment and may be habit forming.”
• “Marijuana can impair concentration, coordination, and judgement. Do not operate a vehicle or machinery under the influence of this drug.”
• “There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product.”
• “For use only by adults 21 eyars of age or older. Keep out of reach out children”
• “Marijuana should not be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.”

Any marketing or advertising must also include this full statement, with proper capitalization:

“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 breast-feeding may pose potential harms. 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 consumption of this product. Marijuana can impair concentration, coordination, and judgment. The impairment effects of Edible Marijuana Products may be delayed by two hours or more. In case of accidental ingestion, contact poison control hotline 1-800-222-1222 or 9-1-1. This product may be illegal outside of MA.”

Who can Massachusetts cannabis retailers sell to?

Cannabis retailers in Massachusetts can only sell recreational cannabis to customers over the age of 21 with a valid form of identification. Medical marijuana providers can only sell cannabis products to MMJ patients or caregivers with valid MMJ cards.

What can a Massachusetts cannabis retailer sell?

Cannabis stores in Massachusetts may sell cannabis flower, concentrates, edibles, infused products, topicals, beverages, and tinctures.

Retail Cannabis Licensing in Massachusetts

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

The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission is in charge of all licensing for the Massachusetts cannabis industry.

What is the process for obtaining a marijuana dispensary license in Massachusetts?

Register for the Massachusetts Cannabis Industry Portal (MassCIP) to begin the three-stage application process: Application of Intent; Background Check; and Management & Operations profile. These stages can be completed in any order and must be submitted together.

The Application of Intent requires a lot of administrative and personnel details. This includes but is not limited to: Proof that the business entity is be registered in Massachusetts; a list of all persons or entities that will have direct or indirect control; disclosure of each individual and their ownership percentage; documentation disclosing whether any individual named in the application has any past or present business interests in other jurisdictions; documentation detailing the amount and sources of capital and/or investment; proof that you have conducted a Community Outreach meeting.

The background check requires all individuals involved in the business to provide their full legal name, address, date of birth, a photocopy of their ID, etc.

The Management and Operations Profile requires detailed information about the business registration; a certificate of good standing from the Secretary of the Commonwealth (issued within the previous 90 days from submission); a proposed timeline for opening your cannabis business; detailed business plan; and a detailed summary of operations that includes your plan for security, diversion prevention, transportation of cannabis, inventory procedures, quality control, recordkeeping, and more

What is a community outreach meeting and why do I need to conduct one to apply for a cannabis business license in Massachusetts?

The state of Massachusetts wants to ensure local communities have a say in cannabis businesses coming into their area. Therefore, all applicants must conduct a community outreach meeting within six months prior to their application submission. 

 

Documentation proving that you held a Community Outreach meeting includes a copy of a notice of the time, place, and subject matter of the meeting, including the proposed address of the cannabis business, that was published in a newspaper of “general circulation” in the city or town at least 14 calendar days prior to the meeting. You will also need a copy of the meeting notice filed with the city or town clerk; attestation that at least one meeting was held within the municipality in which you hope to do business; attestation that at least one meeting was held after normal business hours.

 

You must also show proof that you sent letters to any property owners that abutter your proposed location and residents within 300 feet of the proposed property line. These letters must be sent at least seven calendar days prior to the community outreach meeting.

Are there any residency requirements for cannabis licensing in MA?

All cannabis business applicants in Massachusetts must be able to show evidence of their residency in the Commonwealth for at least 12 consecutive months prior to the date of application.

How much does it cost to apply for a cannabis retail license in Massachusetts?

The price of the license fee depends on the type of license. Here is the breakdown for cannabis license application and annual license fees:

• Marijauna Retailer (brick-and-mortar)
     o Application Fee: $1,500
     o Annual License Fee: $10,000
• Social Consumption Establishment
     o Application Fee: $1,500
     o Annual License Fee: $10,000
• Marijuana Transporter: Third-party Transporter
     o Application Fee: $1,500
     o Annual License Fee: $5,000
• Marijuana Transporter: Existing Licensee Transporter
     o Application Fee: $1,000
     o Annual License Fee: $5,000
• Marijuana Delivery-Only Licensee
     o Application Fee: $1,500
     o Annual License Fee: $10,000
• Marijuana Delivery-only Licensee
     o Application Fee: $500
     o Annual License Fee: $5,000
• Marijuana Establishment with a Delivery Endorsement
     o Application Fee: $500
     o Annual License Fee: $5,000

There are also certain waivers available for license fees. The state of Massachusetts has a Social Equity Program and Economic Empowerment Priority Applicants. If you qualify for either of these programs, applicants will receive a 50% reduction in the fees associated with their cannabis license application.

Is there a limit to the number of cannabis-related licenses someone can have?

No person or entity can have more than three cannabis licenses in Massachusetts under a particular class. 

Cannabis Advertising & Marketing Laws

What restrictions are there regarding cannabis advertising?

There are specific restrictions depending on the advertising medium that we will address below, but overall there are some common restrictions across the board.
 

First, no advertisements for anything cannabis-related can be attractive to minors (no cartoon characters or public figures appealing to a younger age group) or promote underage or out-of-state consumption. Second, no product can claim any therapeutic or curative effects. Lastly, any cannabis advertisement must include the following government warnings:

  • "This product has intoxicating effects and may be habit forming.";

  • "Marijuana can impair concentration, coordination, and judgment. Do not operate a vehicle or machinery under the influence of this drug.";

  • "There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product."; and

  • "For use only by adults twenty-one and older. Keep out of the reach of children.”

What kind of signage are dispensaries allowed to have?

Each licensed retail location can have two signs at their location with their business name or trade name. These signs cannot be larger than 1,600 square feet (measured from the outer frame). No signs can be on the road pointing in the direction of the dispensary, they can only be affixed or hanging from the building or windows of the actual storefront.

What can the signs include on them?

The signs can include the business name, location and identify the nature of the business. It cannot have any photos or depictions of cannabis and it cannot be appealing to minors.

Are cannabis advertisements on billboards allowed?

A cannabis dispensary can advertise on billboards with some restrictions. First, the billboard can only contain the same information as signage on the storefront (i.e., name of business, address and nature of business). It cannot contain any photos or depictions of the cannabis plant (this includes any logo with a cannabis leaf) or appeal to minors. No matter the design, the billboard must say that cannabis can only be purchased and possessed by adults over 21 years old.

Are dispensaries allowed to host giveaways or coupons?

No, dispensaries cannot give away any product or coupons. They can, however, encourage customers to sign up for an email or text list and offer specials that way.

Can a dispensary sell branded merchandise?

No, a dispensary is only allowed to sell legal cannabis products and paraphernalia. But branded merchandise for a dispensary can be sold on their website or through a separate entity.

 

Can a dispensary advertise in print media?

Yes, a dispensary is allowed to advertise in print publications, but with a few restrictions. The publication cannot target or distribute to an audience out of state or underage. And the content of the advertisement must follow the same rules as billboards and signage (no cannabis depictions or photos, cartoon characters or anything appealing to minors and must include government warnings). Local jurisdictions are able to establish additional advertising rules, so always check for relevant local laws.

What is allowed in terms of online advertising?

A retail cannabis business can have a website, but it cannot appeal to or solicit anyone under the age of 21. You can sell branded non-cannabis merchandise on your website, but all cannabis products must be purchased in store.

Can a dispensary host, attend or sponsor events?

Yes, a dispensary can host or sponsor an event, but only if attendees are over 21 years old. They cannot have product on hand, neither as a free gift or sold.

Where can I find more information about cannabis advertising laws in Washington?

Rules and regulations regarding advertising for Washington cannabis companies are constantly changing. You can view the WSLCB’s Q&A on advertising here.

POINT OF SALE

You definitely need a cannabis-specific POS at your dispensary. Find the most frequently asked tech questions here.

How do I manage state compliance using my point-of-sale?

Cova POS software provides complete seed-to-sale tracking functionality and has a number of built-in features designed to help you automatically comply with the legal regulations in your state/province. For example, the Cova POS system automatically monitors:

  • Purchase Limits – The POS system automatically calculates the correct THC amounts for all products, including concentrates and edibles. By relieving your staff of this complex task, the POS prevents mistakes in calculation and allows your budtenders to focus on customer service—and not on mathematical conversions. The system also enforces purchase limits by alerting staff when a limit has been reached and preventing budtenders from executing a sale that would place you over the legal limit.
  • Hours of Operation – The system can be easily configured to comply with local laws. Once the operational hours are set up, the POS will not allow sales to be executed outside the legal hours of operation, preventing potential violations before they occur.
  • Customer Identification Requirements – Customer IDs are easily scanned and recorded, ensuring your staff double checks IDs and virtually eliminating potential sales to minors or other individuals lacking the requisite documentation.
  • Accurate Real-Time Reporting – Operational visibility is also very important for your team. Cova POS software generates management reports in real time. These reports can be easily distributed across the organization to ensure the correct data is in the hands of the correct personnel.
  • Fully Compliant Product Labelling & Receipts Cova Software enables the complete customization of all printed materials, product labels, and receipts, enabling you to comply with all local regulations related to labeling and packaging quickly and easily.



What happens if my internet connection goes down and my dispensary is slammed with customers?

To ensure that you always maintain an expedient transaction pace and keep lines moving, Cova comes with a built-in offline sales processing mode that enables continuous access to critical functions even when your Wi-Fi or internet connection is unavailable. Once connectivity is restored, all transactions performed in offline mode are synchronized with the state’s reporting system, data is backed up, and reports and inventory records are adjusted accordingly.

How do I make sure I submit timely and accurate taxes each month to the government?

By choosing a POS system with built-in tax reporting functionality, you’ll always know exactly how much tax you need to pay.



Why is it important to have a marijuana-specific POS vs. a retail or pharmacy POS?

There are several reasons why a cannabis-specific POS is ideal for your operation—but the most important one is compliance management. Because traditional retail operations and pharmacies don’t have the same government-mandated compliance requirements, their POS systems aren’t built to manage the complexities involved with track and trace reporting and the other aspects of state compliance.

What happens if the state regulations change? How does Cova stay on top of this?

With the industry still in its infancy, regulations are bound to change. At Cova, our team keeps up with industry-wide and state-specific changes so that our developers can quickly made necessary software updates—and so you never have to worry about remaining compliant with the latest regulations.

Is Cova integrated with Metrc?

Currently, Metrc is not yet live in California since the state's regulations have not yet been officially adopted. However, Cova is working closely with Metrc and has already begun the process of integration, and we plan to be ready when the system goes live.



I have a high-traffic store. Can Cova support me and handle my volume?

Absolutely! Cova software is built on technology that has the ability to dynamically scale with your needs. Microsoft’s Cloud Computing Platform, Azure, automatically detects instances of heavy traffic (such as sales on 4/20) and assigns further servers and computing power as necessary to compensate—allowing you to process sales without interruption, even during the busiest retail periods.



Do I have to follow CA compliance even if it is not in effect? Will the POS still process sales?

Although technically you are not mandated to comply with the new law and regulations until July, it’s a good idea to implement a compliant POS now so you don’t have to switch later.

How do I do the 14-day inventory reconciliation?

With Cova, you can easily stay compliant with California’s inventory reconciliation requirement by printing the Inventory-on-hand report and checking it against your physical inventory. You can make any necessary adjustments directly into the POS, which will then sync the data across your network.

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. 

View Ron's full bio

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