State & Local Government / Roles & Responsibilities
Roles and Responsibilities
Learn more about the roles and responsibilities of the Cannabis Control Commission and state and local government in the licensing and regulation process.
Role of the Cannabis Control Commission
The Cannabis Control Commission enacts and enforces statewide regulations of medical-use and adult-use marijuana in Massachusetts. The Commission is charged with developing regulations that, among other priorities, address:
- Public health issues, such as labeling, advertising, and potency;
- Public safety issues, security protocols, diversion, and the illicit market;
- Industry issues, such as cultivation, distribution, transportation, and Seed-to-sale Tracking; and
- Market participation for communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs, women, minorities, and veteran-owned businesses in the cannabis industry.
The Commission has the authority to:
- Review applications;
- Grant licenses;
- Deny an application;
- Inspect Marijuana Establishments;
- Impose fees and fines.
- Conduct adjudicatory proceedings;
- Refer cases for criminal prosecution to the appropriate authorities; and
- Amend or repeal regulations.
Learn more about the Cannabis Control Commission.
Role of Municipalities
While legalization of marijuana is enacted at a state level, cities and towns have the authority to define how cannabis businesses can operate within their municipal boundaries.
What Municipalities Can Do
- While the Commission is required by law to engage in the licensing process for Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MTCs) and Marijuana Establishments (MEs), a municipality may implement its own licensing process, as long as it does not conflict with state laws and regulations governing MTCs and MEs.
- The law allows—but does not require—municipalities to pass bylaws and ordinances governing the time, place, and manner of MEs, as well as businesses dealing with marijuana accessories. These bylaws and ordinances may not be unreasonably impracticable. Under the definition in the law, this means that the local laws cannot be so difficult to comply with that they would subject licensees to unreasonable risk, or require such a high investment of risk, money, time or any other resource or asset, that a reasonably prudent business person would not operate a ME.
- A municipality may pass a bylaw or ordinance limiting the number of MEs to 20% or more of the number of liquor licenses issued pursuant to G.L. c.138 §15 (sale for off-premises consumption) in that municipality without going to the ballot. For example, if a municipality has granted 100 liquor licenses, it may set a maximum limit for 20 marijuana retailers in its locality. If a municipality is calculating 20% of its §15 liquor licenses, and the calculations results in a number less than one, the Commission recommends that the municipality round up to one retailer. If the calculation results in a fraction greater than one, the Commission recommends rounding up to the nearest whole number if the municipality does not wish to limit the number of retailers to fewer than 20%.
- If a municipality adopts a general bylaw or ordinance imposing a limitation on the number of MEs within its community, such that the amount allowed is less than the ME within that community, the municipality must determine which ME will be permitted to proceed to the application process for adult use by executing a Host Community Agreement with those establishments.
- Under state law, an ME may not be located within 500 feet of a pre-existing public or private school providing education in kindergarten or any of grades one through 12. Municipalities may adopt an ordinance or bylaw to reduce that distance requirement.
- A municipality may regulate—by bylaw or ordinance—signage regarding marijuana-related uses, but the ordinance or bylaw may not impose a standard more restrictive than those applied to retail establishments selling alcoholic beverages within the municipality.
What Municipalities Can’t Do
- A city or town may not prohibit or inhibit the transport of legal marijuana through its locality.
- Local laws cannot subject licensees to unreasonable or impracticable demands or require an increased investment of risk, money, time, or any other resource or asset.
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Cannabis Control Commission.
Attend a Public
The Cannabis Control Commission conducts meetings and other events to keep you informed.
Subscribe to Our
Sign up for updates from the Cannabis Control Commission.