The Cannabis Control Commission’s deliberate roll-out of recreational pot licenses will miss a widely held expectation that pot shops would be open today, but that hasn’t stopped budding entrepreneurs looking to add rec use marijuana to their existing medical businesses.
“As soon as the ballot initiative passed, we started to draw up plans on how to expand,” said Norton Arbelaez, director of medical marijuana empire NETA.
NETA currently has dispensaries in Brookline and Northampton, and has nearly doubled production ahead of acquiring recreational licenses. With an estimated 20,000 plants growing in its Franklin warehouse, NETA is now one of the largest pot cultivators in the entire country. The company has upped its staff to nearly 400 employees and plans to open a third retail location, in Franklin.
Arbelaez said NETA anticipated a delayed start to the recreational market, and operated strategically in its expansion.
Still, that expansion is coming slower than many have hoped. More than 160 cities and towns across the state have instituted moratoriums on pot businesses, meaning those residents won’t be able to buy recreational weed in much of the commonwealth until 2019. More than 70 municipalities have outright bans on recreational pot businesses.
“Is it frustrating? Yeah. I’d love to be open 7/1, I’d love to add jobs and be a part of this historic industry,” said Keith Cooper, chief executive of Revolutionary Clinics, which hopes to open retail shops in Somerville and Cambridge. “We’ve already been investing in this business for months now, we decided to quadruple our growth space in Fitchburg, we’re spending a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of money in expanding our facilities out there.”
Many of the cities and towns that have banned or delayed pot shops say they are concerned about public health impacts.