Massachusetts regulators want to keep a close eye on the types of marijuana products that will be for sale to adults once marijuana retailers open and whether those products might appeal to children, a concern prompted Thursday by an applicant seeking to make marijuana cake pops.
The Cannabis Control Commission agreed Thursday to begin compiling a database of the marijuana edibles or marijuana-infused products approved for sale in Massachusetts so that regulators, consumers, parents and law enforcement can get a better sense of what type of products are out there.
"As we are seeing more products that are being made available," Commissioner Britte McBride said, "I think that starting to collect a database on what those products are, what they look like ... I think it probably is going to be a useful tool for us to have, but it's also going to be a useful tool moving forward for other enforcement entities to have as we are thinking about making sure that we are preventing diversion to kids."
The CCC's regulations prohibit edibles that are in the "distinct shape of a human, animal, or fruit; or ... A shape that bears the likeness or contains characteristics of a realistic or fictional human, animal, or fruit, including artistic, caricature, or cartoon renderings" in an attempt to block products that might appeal to children.
What raised some concern at the CCC's meeting Thursday was a proposal from Attleborough-based Ashli's Extract, LLC, to make a series of marijuana-infused products and edibles, including cookies, lemon squares and, specifically, cake pops, a sort of cake-based lollipop.
McBride said cake pops caught her attention and she wondered how cake pops would be made to adhere to the CCC's regulations and how the CCC's required symbols indicating that the product contains marijuana could be affixed to them.
"I can say that, literally, the only people I've ever seen with a cake pop in my life are my 8-year-old and my 5-year-old," McBride said.
Commissioner Shaleen Title said, "When I heard cake pops — and probably all of us who have young children — it did give us pause."
CCC Executive Director Shawn Collins said that any marijuana product to be sold must first be logged into METRC, the commission's seed-to-sale tracking system, so the METRC system will also function as a database of products for sale in Massachusetts.
Commissioners said businesses seeking marijuana licenses from the CCC should know that the commission will be scrutinizing submitted lists of edibles or other marijuana products.
"The overall tone of this is that we really want to allow the commercialization of cannabis but at the same time prevent diversion," Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan said. "I think that the database would be helpful not only for us but for the public to be able to see the products that are on our shelves."
The commission approved the application from Ashli's Extract LLC for a provisional license and Collins told commissioners that he and the CCC's staff will continue to bring similar applications to the commission for provisional licensure to "get a sense of the comfort level and to know where we should dig down further."
During the inspection that happens for every provisionally-licensed business, CCC staff will inspect any and all products the business plans to sell and the commission could deny the business the ability to sell any product that the CCC determines does not comply with its regulations.
The CCC approved 10 other provisional licenses on Thursday: for Ashli's Farm, Inc., to grow up to 30,000 square feet of marijuana, for Ashli's Inc. to operate a retail store in Attleborough, for Gibby’s Garden, LLC, to grow up to 5,000 square feet of marijuana and produce marijuana products as a microbusiness in Uxbridge, for Green Biz Inc. to run a retail store in Pittsfield, for Sanctuary Medicinals, Inc., to grow up to 40,000 square feet of marijuana and produce marijuana products in Littleton, for Temescal Wellness of Massachusetts, Inc., to grow up to 10,000 square feet of marijuana and manufacture marijuana products in Worcester, and for Theory Wellness, Inc., to grow up to 5,000 square feet of marijuana and produce marijuana products in Bridgewater.
Each of those provisional licenses is contingent upon the business paying the licensing fee, passing a CCC inspection, being granted a final license by the CCC, meeting any conditions attached to the final license and then being given a notice to commence full operations by the CCC.
The Commission also approved six so-called final licenses on Thursday, though the businesses given final approval have not been cleared to begin non-medical sales.
New England Treatment Access was approved for two final licenses for its facility at 5 Forge Parkway in Franklin, one to grow up to 50,000 square feet of marijuana and the other to produce marijuana products. Sira Naturals was approved for three final licenses at its facility at 13 Commercial Way in Milford — one to grow up to 20,000 square feet of marijuana, to produce marijuana products and to transport marijuana to other licensed businesses.
The CCC also granted a final license for Pharmacannis Massachusetts, Inc., to run a retail store at 112 Main St. in Wareham. Pharmacannis Massachusetts is the third retailer to receive a final CCC license — joining NETA's Northampton location and Cultivate in Leicester. Though they have been given so-called final licenses, none of the businesses can begin non-medical sales until the CCC grants them a notice to commence full operations.
Massachusetts voters approved marijuana legalization at the ballot box two years ago, but the non-medical marijuana marketplace has not yet come to fruition. The CCC had hoped to launch legal sales by July 1 but did not meet that goal. Since then, CCC Chairman Steven Hoffman had pegged the start of legal sales as "late summer/early fall" but licensees said this week they do not expect to be allowed to open for a few more weeks.
Since December 2016 it has been legal for adults to use, possess and grow marijuana in Massachusetts.
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