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May 17, 2019

Massachusetts begins marijuana social consumption pilot

Photo | State House News Service Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman at a meeting prior to the coronavirus pandemic

The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission has voted to approve a pilot program for so-called social consumption establishments where cannabis customers can use marijuana in public.

Currently, public use of cannabis is still not allowed.

The 3-2 vote comes after three days of policy discussions on the topic. Under the pilot, a limited number of communities across the state would be allowed to host such establishments where those 21 or older can use cannabis on site.

Those licenses would be exclusively available to licensed microbusinesses, craft marijuana cooperatives, economic empowerment applicants and social equity applicants for an initial period of two years.

However, the pilot program could still be a ways off, as the CCC must take other votes to approve the program and perhaps the biggest hurdle of all is a necessary change in state law to allow cities and towns to authorize social consumption. 

Up to 12 cities or towns could permit the lounges or cannabis cafes. North Adams, Amherst, Springfield, Provincetown and Somerville took part in a CCC working group on the topic and would be able to participate in the pilot.

That working group recommended smoking only be allowed outdoors and indoor vaping could be allowed only with an adequate ventilation system. Municipalities could cap the number of licensed lounges. 

Although social consumption isn’t allowed, the closest thing to a cannabis cafe in Massachusetts exists in Worcester’s Canal District. The Summit Lounge, a private club, allows members to smoke and consume cannabis products.

Because it’s a private club and in a legal gray area, Summit Lounge is not licensed by the CCC.

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