Massachusetts Cannabis Regulators Abandon Pilot Program for Cannabis Consumption, Focus on New Licensing Framework

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Regulators voted to cancel the previous years-old plan for cannabis consumption sites in favor of a new, faster approach.

In late May, regulators in the Cannabis Control Commission in Massachusetts voted to change the rollout for cannabis consumption locations. The previously agreed-upon pilot program would have allowed only a dozen cities and towns to be part of the launch (1). Now, they will create a new regulatory framework that awards licenses to locations where customers can purchase cannabis products on the premises (1).

“If we would have had a pilot project in place, then we’d have to think about a pilot license, and a pilot license would get stuck in our regs for the next three to five or six years, knowing how things move slowly throughout the process,” Commissioner Nurys Camargo stated (1). Camargo explained that the new program also allows regulators to focus attention on the long-term and encourages municipalities to think about opting in to social consumption spaces (1).

Kimberly Roy, the only commissioner who voted against dropping the pilot program, said concerns and questions still needed to be addressed about public safety–such as risks of secondhand smoke–and equity (1).


“Sometimes, even things done with the best intentions can go awry, whether it’s the delivery operator—which was done with the best intentions, right, to remove barriers and to help people and to create equity,” Roy said (1). “Microbusinesses were a license type that was done with the best intentions. Craft cooperative farmers, same thing. And these have either not worked or struggled or they’re failing.”

Regulations that would have limited the pilot program to 12 municipalities would have excluded communities most impacted by past cannabis prohibition, noted Commissioner Bruce Stebbins (1). A group called Equitable Opportunities Now (EON), which seeks to empower people of color in the cannabis industries, had also encouraged regulators to a more comprehensive regulatory framework as opposed to a pilot program (1).

“We appreciate Commissioners Camargo and Stebbins’ leadership on this issue and the thoughtful discussion of the full Commission and look forward to working together to ensure that this exciting new license type creates meaningful opportunities for communities most harmed by the war on drugs,” said EON Policy Co-chair Armani White (1).

Cannabis for recreational purposes was legalized in Massachusetts in 2016, but cannabis cafés have yet to be opened in the state (1).


  1. Lisinski, C. Regulators agree to new approach on cannabis cafes (accessed Jun 6, 2023).