Massachusetts regulators are expected to vote Thursday on the state’s first-ever recreational marijuana license.
The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission has scheduled a hearing on an application from Sira Naturals for its cultivation facility in Milford, according to a meeting agenda posted Tuesday. Sira already grows marijuana there for its three medical cannabis dispensaries.
If the application is approved by the agency’s five commissioners Thursday, it could take several weeks for Sira’s Milford facility to be inspected and cleared to proceed with recreational operations.
“We’ve worked very hard to build a strong and professional business, and we are very gratified that the commission saw fit to take this step with us,” said Mike Dundas, Sira Naturals chief executive. “That said, there are a lot of unanswered questions we’ll be helping to answer over the coming days and weeks.”
The Milford facility has 10,000 square feet of marijuana under cultivation for Sira’s medical dispensaries in Cambridge, Needham, and Somerville. But even if the commission approves the Milford application, it’s not clear how much of the current crop — if any — will make its way to recreational consumers this summer.
For one thing, Dundas said, the procedures for transferring pot grown under medical marijuana regulations overseen by the Department of Public Health to the commission’s recreational system remain fuzzy, meaning it will likely take some time to sort out.
“I don’t see any of that happening in the next few days or weeks,” he said. “For now, there’s nowhere to sell it.”
Moreover, the state has yet to license any retail pot shops that could buy marijuana from Sira. The company has also not applied to sell recreational pot at its own dispensaries, as Needham banned recreational pot operations and Cambridge and Somerville are still finalizing their local marijuana licensing and zoning rules.
In the meantime, Sira Naturals is planning to ramp up production and significantly expand the size of its Milford operation.
Cannabis commission executive director Shawn Collins said the scheduling of the vote on Sira’s application was a significant milestone for legal pot use. But he continued to temper public expectations of widespread marijuana availability in July, saying the agency won’t rush applications. Collins also noted marijuana applicants must obtain separate approvals from their host communities, a time-consuming and potentially contentious process.
“It’s an important day, but it’s also just another step in the process,” Collins said. “We’re working around the clock to get towards getting these facilities evaluated and licensed. Whether that means [stores opening in] July or not remains to be seen. I’m optimistic we’ll get our part of the process done efficiently.”
Dundas noted it is somewhat ironic that Milford may host the state’s first recreational pot facility, as the town last year approved a ban on all recreational establishments. Sira and Proverde Laboratories, a marijuana testing lab in the town, were later able to wrangle exemptions from the ban, which Dundas called a “near-death experience for our company.”
“We ended up forging very close relationships with the community after that [vote], and believe it or not, some of our staunchest opponents at the ballot box are actually going to be excited about this announcement,” Dundas said. “This business plays itself out in very strange and unpredictable ways, and today is a great example of that.”
Marijuana advocates who pushed for the legalization of the drug applauded the upcoming vote.
“It will be gratifying to everyone who has worked to end the grand failure of cannabis prohibition to see the issuance of the first adult-use license,” said Jim Borghesani, the spokesman for the 2016 campaign. “Hopefully, cities and towns will move forward with zoning plans and host agreements so Massachusetts can realize the full benefits of legalization.”Dan Adams can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Adams86.