After a year of legal cannabis, Massachusetts is taking stock. Numbers released by the state’s Department of Revenue and its Cannabis Control Commission summed up the first phase of the regulated cannabis industry, announcing that the state’s 33 dispensaries had raked in a total of nearly $400 million in sales, and employed 6,700 individuals.
Massachusetts has largely dodged issues with illegal dispensaries such as those in California, even as a large share of in-state cannabis sales take place under illegal circumstances. It also faced its fair share of other challenges, among them ensuring social equity for people of color in the cannabis industry. The state has previously stated that a paltry 3.5 percent of the business entities that had filed with the state are owned by people of color.
Sales figures started out of the gate strong. The sole two dispensaries that were initially licensed in Northampton and Leicester rang up $2 million in customer purchases in the first five days they were open, and saw lines so long to get into the retail locations that the neighbors sometimes complained about the influx of car traffic.
The state is now home to 33 dispensaries, which have sold $393.7 million worth of cannabis products, generating $19 million in sales tax, $32.8 million in excise tax, and $9.1 in local option tax.
No Smooth Sailing in the Commonwealth
The cannabis industry was roiled by allegations that Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II had been accepting bribes from marijuana entrepreneurs in exchange for allowing them to open up their businesses in his city. Legally admissible types of bribery have also been a concern, with many communities asking marijuana companies for payments via “host community agreements.”
The Department of Revenue and the Cannabis Control Commission also identified several other ongoing issues that they hope to address in year two of cannabis sales.
One was the need to open more, geographically well-distributed cannabis stores. “I have no expectation there will be a retail store on every corner, but we have a lot more geographic expansion to do,” said the chairperson of the Cannabis Control Commission Steven Hoffman, explaining that the roll-out prioritized long-term quality over speed. “I was much more concerned about what this industry would look like in 2021 or 2022 than in 2018,” he said.
Hoffman also spoke about the necessity of getting more doctors and nurses to take on medical cannabis patients. “I think we’re missing an opportunity to substantially improve the lives of patients around the state,” the chairperson said. “We need to figure out how to engage the medical community in this.”
“I feel proud of what we’ve accomplished and I’m pleased with how the rollout has gone to date but we are in the early stages and have a ton more work to do,” said Hoffman.