There will be no legal recreational marijuana sales in Massachusetts on July 1.
And though regulators expect to approve business licenses next week, there can be no legal retail sales until an independent testing laboratory applies and is licensed by the Cannabis Control Commission.
The commission on Tuesday formally asked its staff to prioritize the review of license applications for independent testing laboratories, a critical link of the supply chain without which no retail shops can open since state law requires all marijuana sold to be tested and approved by a lab.
Regulators had targeted July 1 as the beginning of legal retail sales, but so far the Cannabis Control Commission has only approved one provisional license: for a cultivation facility in Milford. The panel will not consider additional licenses until July 2, Chairman Steven Hoffman said Tuesday.
So far, the commission has not received any completed license applications from independent testing labs.
"We do have one lab application that's in the queue. We've talked to the labs, the four operators of the medical marijuana labs, and our expectation, I don't have timing, but our expectation is that they'll all apply," Hoffman told State House News Service.
The acknowledgement Tuesday that there will be no legal retail sales until the Cannabis Control Commission licenses a testing lab made clear that the panel would not meet its goal of launching the industry approved by voters in 2016 by July 1, a target date that was first used by the Legislature and adopted by Hoffman and the commission in September.
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"I have resisted making a forecast and I will continue to resist making a forecast. We are going to issue licenses on an ongoing basis, they have to become final licenses, we have to get city and town approval; there are too many moving parts so I'm not making a forecast," Hoffman said Tuesday. He said the lack of testing labs is "another reason why I'm just not making a forecast about timing, it's another one of the moving parts that has to come together."
Hoffman said he expects the Cannabis Control Commission will vote on approving "a handful" of licenses when it meets on Monday. After approving its first license last week, Hoffman said he expected that the commission would consider license applications at each subsequent meeting. Tuesday's meeting did not include votes on license applications, Hoffman said, because of "an incredibly quick turnaround from our meeting last Thursday to today."
As of Tuesday, 31 entities have applied for 61 business licenses and the commission has begun to review those applications. The review process includes a background check and a 60-day window during which the municipality in which the business hopes to locate must certify that the applicant has met all local requirements.