The Cannabis Control Commission is reviewing its first license application from an independent testing laboratory, a critical link of the supply chain without which non-medical marijuana cannot be sold, and the chairman said he hopes the commission can consider that application when it meets next in two weeks.
The CCC also agreed Thursday to license a second marijuana growing operation, clearing a company it has already licensed to operate a retail store to grow between 5,001 square feet and 10,000 square feet of marijuana in Leicester.
Executive Director Shawn Collins told the commission Thursday that the CCC staff is reviewing an application from an independent testing lab, a category of license that the commission agreed to prioritize because all non-medical marijuana sold in Massachusetts must first be tested an approved by a lab.
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Asked whether that application might come before the CCC at its July 26 meeting, Chairman Steven Hoffman struck an optimistic tone.
"I hope so, again I'm not going to be specific because there are just too many moving parts, but I hope so," he said of the approval that would clear a significant roadblock to the development of a legal marijuana industry.
The next meeting of the CCC will be in two weeks — Thursday, July 26. Hoffman said he hopes to have "a significant number" of license applications to consider for approval at that meeting.
"There is 19 that we have completed our review of and we're waiting for cities and towns or our background check agency," he said. "I know for a fact there were three we were hoping to get on for today that we heard back from the city or town yesterday. We insist that the commissioners have enough time to evaluate it so we didn't want to rush it."
Asked why the CCC is taking a two-week break between meetings, Hoffman said the idea is that the break will give the CCC staff enough time to review and prepare many applications for the commission's approval.
"These are tough meetings to plan for, they require a lot of staff work and we thought it is more efficient to actually put our staff focused on license application review," he said. "And so we thought we'd have more done once every two weeks than twice in two weeks. It's just really about trying to be as efficient as possible."
Lawmakers and regulators at the CCC had initially hoped to launch legal non-medical marijuana sales on July 1 but that target date was not met. Hoffman has refused to give a forecast for when sales might begin.
The CCC voted unanimously Thursday to issue a provisional license to Cultivate Holdings, Inc., as a tier two cultivator, which would allow the company to grow between 5,001 square feet and 10,000 square feet of marijuana. Cultivate already grows, processes and sells marijuana to medical program patients at its 23,000-square-foot facility in a former tool and die shop on Main Street in Leicester.
Cultivate has received all necessary approvals from the town and the CCC received no objections to its license application, CCC Executive Director Shawn Collins said. The company has also agreed to donate 10 percent of its profits to community charities once it is profitable, he said.
Last week, the CCC voted unanimously to issue a provisional license for Cultivate to operate as a retail marijuana shop, conditional upon additional background checks and facility inspections. The company has also applied to manufacture marijuana products; the CCC has not acted on that application.
Sam Barber, president of Cultivate, said last week that his company has a current growing canopy of less than 10,000-square feet for medical cannabis and the company is hoping to double its production in the coming months as it breaks into the non-medical market.
Thursday's vote brought the total number of license applications the CCC has approved to five between two companies. The CCC has also licensed Sira Naturals, a company that already grows medical marijuana in Milford, to grow between 10,001 and 20,000 square feet worth of marijuana for the recreational market. Sira has also been licensed to manufacture marijuana products and transport marijuana.
Collins said Thursday that, as of Thursday, 39 entities have applied for 73 business licenses and the CCC 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.
Also Thursday, the CCC approved a draft copy of a report on the statutorily-required transition of oversight of the medical marijuana program from the Department of Public Health to the CCC by the end of the year. That report is due to the Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy by July 15 and Collins said he intends to submit the report on Friday.
He described the report as a "high-level view" of the months of discussions that have taken place between the DPH and CCC over the transition of the medical program and how the CCC has taken the medical program into consideration as it builds its own staff.
Collins said he is confident the transition will happen by the end of this calendar year, as is required by law.
The CCC also approved a request for responses on Thursday, seeking a vendor who can provide business intelligence and data services as the CCC begins to build its data collection and storage infrastructure.