Massachusetts is now a key step closer to the belated first legal recreational pot sales in the state.
The Cannabis Control Commission on Thursday approved provisional licenses for two independent testing labs — CDX Analytics, of Salem, and MCR Labs, of Framingham — the first labs to get approval.
The lack of labs to test recreational marijuana has in part led to the slow rollout of pot shops in Massachusetts. Because while recreational marijuana sales have been legal in the state since July 1, by law nothing can be sold until it's tested first by a licensed lab for safety.
Thursday's licenses mean that could now soon change. But before the labs can operate, CDX and MCR — which already operate as medical marijuana testing labs — need a final recreational license.
"They’re already operational so my hope is that it will be a relatively quick turnaround until they come back to us and say they’re ready to be inspected and get the final license," commission Chairman Steve Hoffman said Thursday. "So I think we’re still talking about the same time frame [for recreational sales], which is it's going to be late summer or early fall."
Back in June, the commission moved to prioritize the review of license applications for labs. At that point, regulators had not received any completed licenses for independent testing labs.
Some labs have pushed back against criticism that they're holding up recreational marijuana sales, pointing to unclear guidance over the difference between testing of medical and recreational pot. They've also pointed to concerns over fees tied to community host agreements, which are required for all recreational marijuana licenses.
The commission has already approved provisional retail licenses for several medical marijuana dispensaries, but none can sell recreational marijuana products until they're tested by a licensed lab. Regulators have also already approved several licenses for cultivators, manufacturers and other retailers.
There are currently 112 license applications under review by the commission, including the two testing labs approved Thursday and a third lab that's still pending approval.
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This article was originally published on August 23, 2018.