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Massachusetts Approves Cannabis Deliveries by Boat to Martha's Vineyard

Medical and adult-use cannabis was running dry in Dukes County.

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A week after hosting a public meeting to hear testimony from residents of Dukes County and Nantucket, the Cannabis Control Commission (Commission) voted 4-0 Thursday to issue an Administrative Order authorizing transport of marijuana and marijuana products over state territorial waters to and from adult-use Marijuana Establishments and Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers on the islands. The order took effect at 12 a.m. on Friday, June 14.

“The Commission appreciated the serious concerns raised by patients, certifying healthcare providers, adult consumers, and local businesses, who each highlighted the importance of maintaining access to regulated marijuana and marijuana products on the islands,” Acting Chair Ava Callender Concepcion said. “It is clear to all of us that this issue is a matter of public health, safety, and equity; as the result of this order, licensees will continue to play a key role in upholding these industry pillars with a new authority to transport legal products to and from businesses on Dukes County and Nantucket.”

The Administrative Order comes in response to ongoing federal marijuana prohibition which prevents the transport of marijuana and marijuana products to and from mainland Massachusetts licensees to island licensees. In recent weeks, stakeholders who reside or work in Dukes County and Nantucket have highlighted the growing risk to patient and adult access posed by a lack of product availability from island licensees.

Once it takes effect, the Commission’s Administrative Order will allow adult-use Marijuana Establishments and Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers to transport marijuana and marijuana products only over state territorial waters, which is defined as those navigable within the boundaries of the Commonwealth as identified in the Massachusetts Coastal Zone Map published by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management.

Prior to undertaking such activities, licensees will first be required to submit a detailed Standard Operating Procedure setting forth the Licensee’s procedures for compliance with the Administrative Order, which must be approved by the Commission. Licensees may not transport marijuana or marijuana products until their Standard Operating Procedure is approved by the Commission.

Under the Administrative Order, transport must occur on a “seaworthy vessel,” which means that the boat:

  • Is fit in all aspects to complete the intended voyage;
  • Is served by a properly trained crew with access to sufficient equipment and supplies;
  • Is fit and safe for the reception, carriage and preservation of marijuana or marijuana products;
  • Has passed Commission inspection; and
  • Is compliant with all laws, including regulations and Administrative Orders issued by the Commission.

The Commission will enforce many existing regulations that pertain to vehicles to the seaworthy vessels, with certain exceptions, such as the ability of licensees to hire a Captain who may not operate as a Registered Agent for a Marijuana Establishment or Medical Marijuana Treatment Center.

Licensees transporting product to or from the islands will also be required to ensure that all routes remain within the Commonwealth, that dates and times of departures are randomized, and that no boat contains any external markings that indicate it is used to transport or deliver marijuana or marijuana products.

The Commission’s order also addresses public health and safety concerns related to secure storage compartments, permitted access to the seaworthy vessel for state agencies and emergency responders, and policies and procedures to secure all product following any instance of diversion, theft, or loss of marijuana.

Regulations that allow for special accommodations for licensees located on Dukes County and Nantucket have been part of the Commission’s regulatory scheme since 2018, as required by state law. Specifically, island licensees have been subject to modified testing protocols because they could not transport products to ISO-accredited Independent Testing Laboratories located off island. For the first time, the Administrative Order will also allow island licensees to utilize mainland Independent Testing Laboratories, which will eliminate another burdensome cost of doing business, as identified by participants who provided testimony at the Commission’s June 6 public meeting.

Despite the Administrative Order, the agency does not endorse any licensee’s potential violation of federal law, nor purport to grant immunity by issuing the order. Licensees that choose to transport marijuana and marijuana products over state territorial waters assume all associated risks.

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