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Key moments in Massachusetts marijuana history

From the 2016 legalization vote to today, these milestones shaped the legal cannabis market

In March, Brookline selectman Neil Wishinsky was the ceremonial first customer at New England Treatment Access, the first recreational marijuana store to open near Boston.
In March, Brookline selectman Neil Wishinsky was the ceremonial first customer at New England Treatment Access, the first recreational marijuana store to open near Boston.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The opening of the first retail marijuana shop in Boston Monday marked a significant milestone in the history of the state’s legalization effort. Here’s a look at some critical moments leading up to this development.

Nov. 8, 2016

Question 4, a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana and setting up a system of regulated cannabis sales, passes with support from 54 percent of voters. The culmination of decades of advocacy, the measures pegs January 1, 2018, as the target date for recreational pot sales to begin.

Dec. 15, 2016

Key provisions of the new law take effect, making it legal to buy, possess, consume, and grow limited quantities of marijuana in Massachusetts for the first time in more than a century.

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Dec. 28, 2016

Without notice or public hearings, fewer than a dozen state lawmakers vote late at night to delay regulated marijuana sales by six months to July 2018 while the Legislature rewrites the law.

July 28, 2017

After months of debate and lobbying, Governor Charlie Baker signs a revised version of the recreational marijuana law that raises taxes on cannabis sales, reorganizes the Cannabis Control Commission, and changes the process municipalities can use to ban marijuana companies. The measure also recognizes decades of racial imbalances in the enforcement of drug laws, directing the new commission to create an equitable industry.

September 12, 2017

The five-member Cannabis Control Commission meets for the first time.

March 9, 2018

The commission submits its final regulations for marijuana companies.

May 1, 2018

The commission begins accepting applications for marijuana business licenses.

June 21, 2018

The commission issues the state’s first provisional recreational marijuana license, to a cultivation facility in Milford.

November 20, 2018

The state’s first two recreational marijuana stores, in Leicester and Northampton, open to huge crowds, drawing cannabis consumers from around the region.

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March 23, 2019

The first marijuana store near Boston and accessible by public transit, New England Treatment Access in Brookline, opens for business.

September 6, 2019

Federal agents arrest Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia on charges he solicited bribes from marijuana companies seeking licenses in his city.

September 24, 2019

Responding to an outbreak of lung ailments among vape consumers, Baker bans sales of all marijuana and nicotine vapes in Massachusetts.

On the same day, the cannabis commission votes 4-1 to authorize recreational marijuana deliveries, which are expected to begin later in 2020. Initially, the licenses will be reserved only for small, locally-owned “microbusinesses” and participants in the agency’s social equity and economic empowerment programs — a decision meant to bolster the state’s faltering equity efforts.

November 4, 2019

The Globe reports that US Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling is investigating host community agreements, the contracts every marijuana firm must sign with the city or town in which it hopes to do business. The move follows years of complaints from advocates and operators about municipal shakedowns.

November 11, 2019

Employees of Sira Naturals vote to unionize, the first workforce in the state’s legal marijuana industry to do so.

December 11, 2019

Baker’s total ban on vape sales ends, but the state banishes flavored vapes and imposes high taxes on other products.

March 9, 2020

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Pure Oasis in Grove Hall becomes the first marijuana store to open in Boston. It’s also the first licensed marijuana business opened by one of the commission’s economic empowerment applicants, a program originally intended to offset the head-start in the recreational market granted to existing medical dispensaries, which were nearly all white-owned.


Dan Adams can be reached at daniel.adams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Adams86.