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NETA gets recreational pot license, but still faces obstacles

  • The exterior of New England Treatment Access, or NETA, is shown June 27, 2018 in Northampton.



For the Gazette
Thursday, October 04, 2018

BOSTON — New England Treatment Access is now licensed to sell recreational marijuana in Northampton following a Thursday vote by the Cannabis Control Commission.

The state panel approved permits allowing NETA and Cultivate Holdings in Leicester to be the first two marijuana retailers in the state to sell pot for adult, recreational use.

“This represents a successful capstone of a process that we’ve invested a lot in,” NETA spokesman Norton Arbelaez said. “I think this is an opportunity that will have some economic impact and help revitalize the community.”

The vote — 4-0, with one abstention — granted NETA the ability to sell, grow, and manufacture recreational marijuana. Commissioner Shaleen Title abstained over concerns about how the panel has handled host community agreements.

Arbelaez said there are still some regulatory measures to complete before NETA can officially retail its products. He expects to start selling in a month.

There are two main obstacles at this point, Arbelaez explained. First, NETA is waiting to be added to the state’s marijuana tracking system, Metrc. Second, the state may have NETA’s marijuana tested a second time for safety reasons.

According to state regulations, marijuana products cannot be sold for recreational use without first being tested by a licensed laboratory. NETA’s marijuana has been tested for medical, but not recreational usage. Arbelaez said testing it again would be overkill.

The 2016 ballot question that legalized recreational marijuana received widespread support in the Pioneer Valley. Northampton City Council President Ryan O’Donnell said, “It seems to be that people are quite comfortable with this … and the fact that this industry in Massachusetts is in its infancy creates a unique circumstance for us.”

Massachusetts is now the seventh state with licensed recreational marijuana stores, joining Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

The final licenses have come nearly two years after Massachusetts passed a law legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use. Due to delays in the regulatory process, the permitting of recreational sales has been delayed long past the July 1 target date.

Two other businesses — Berkshire Roots of Pittsfield and 253 Organic of Montague — were granted provisional licenses at Thursday’s meeting for marijuana cultivation, manufacturing, and recreational retail.

The commission also reported it has received 12 more licensing applications from Hampshire County.

Patrick Lovett writes for the Gazette from the Boston University Statehouse Program.