Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

September 7, 2023 Viewpoint

Viewpoint: Worcester County is at the center of a successful cannabis industry in Massachusetts

As noted in the Worcester Business Journal today, it has been a historic summer for adult-use cannabis sales in Massachusetts with back-to-back record-setting months in June, July, and August, followed by Marijuana Establishments surpassing $5 billion in gross sales. These figures alone should give a clear picture of where the Commonwealth’s legal industry has been in six years and where it’s going. The Cannabis Control Commission, in turn, is making strides, and Worcester County is at the heart of our success.

Photo | Alexander MacDougall
Cannabis Control Commission Executive Director Shawn Collins

As our 124 staff officially and formally return to office next week, including our headquarters at historic Union Station, the Commission’s work in this still-evolving industry has picked up. Productivity, including licensing, has increased each year since the state’s first two cannabis businesses, including one in Leicester, opened their doors in 2018: what once took upwards of four months for the first review of a license application, now takes two weeks, on average. Each year, more licensees are authorized to commence operations than the year before, and as a result, record sales are spread across more marijuana businesses than ever before. 

Based on licensing numbers alone, Worcester County has benefitted the most from the Commission’s steadfast work with 284 applicants achieving at least the provisional stage—at least 100 more than any other county in Massachusetts. No other jurisdiction has more adult-use Marijuana Retailers either, and successful businesses include Social Equity Program Participants and Certified Economic Empowerment Applicants in Worcester, Uxbridge, and beyond. We anticipate seeing statewide equity numbers increase with the implementation of statutorily mandated changes to local contracting and licensing processes in the near future. Additionally, the Positive Impact Plans that we require of all licensees are a boon to our region; those are aimed at benefiting communities or specific municipalities designated as disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs—and include certain neighborhoods of Worcester, as well as Spencer, Southbridge, and Fitchburg.  

Besides allowing marijuana businesses to open shop, the Commission ensures those who are operating follow the law and regulations. Safety in this industry has always been paramount, and our Investigations and Enforcement team works tirelessly to ensure compliance. Since June 2022, staff have completed more than 900 announced and unannounced inspections and issued nearly 500 Notices of Deficiencies to licensees; in one case, they issued an emergency enforcement action, resulting in the immediate suspension of licensee operations posing a public safety risk.  

With all that said, closures remain low in Massachusetts. Of the 317 stores statewide that have been approved to open their doors, only five, or 1.6%, have either surrendered or not renewed their license. In the last year, several neighboring states have seen cannabis businesses open for the first time and are also enjoying record sales this summer. Like licensees, the Commission is hyperaware that competition is heating up in the Northeast, however, we’re confident our industry will continue to set the standard. 

In the Worcester Business Journal’s recent coverage, "Challenges, changes coming to the cannabis industry,” there’s a call for our agency to be more transparent and reexamine some of the state’s current requirements. That’s exactly what we’ve been doing as we rewrite regulations in accordance with the additional oversight given to us by the Legislature under Chapter 180 of the Acts of 2022. Massachusetts residents can tell us what they think about those revisions at a public hearing on Friday, September 8.

As the agency acknowledges its sixth anniversary, I am proud of the good work our team has done and look forward to implementing additional changes that will ensure Massachusetts—and Worcester County specifically—maintains a safe, equitable, and effective cannabis industry.

Shawn Collins, a Webster native, was unanimously selected to serve as the Cannabis Control Commission’s inaugural Executive Director in 2017.

Sign up for Enews

WBJ Web Partners


Order a PDF