Real Estate Guidelines for Massachusetts Cannabis Businesses

The laws you need to know when you start a marijuana operation

By Super Lawyers staff | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on March 3, 2023

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Similar to many other states across the country, Massachusetts recently legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use. State legislators have put a process into place that allows businesses to operate lawfully in the marijuana industry.

As explained by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, strict regulations govern the production, distribution and consumption of cannabis. For business owners and operators planning to enter the industry, there are important real estate and zoning laws that must be followed.

What You Need to Know About Real Estate, Zoning and Marijuana in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, the adult use of marijuana—both recreational and medicinal—is regulated by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). All cannabis operation businesses must submit a license application. Commercial owners and operators should have a basic understanding of the Massachusetts medical marijuana licensure requirements. In regard to real estate and zoning laws, there are three key things that you should know:

  1. Marijuana Establishments Must Have an Approved Premises. Massachusetts offers several different types of marijuana industry licenses—including for cultivation facilities, manufacturers, dispensaries and research facilities. To obtain a license, an applicant must be able to prove to the CCC that they have premises (real property) that satisfy all legal requirements for their specific type of license.
  2. Provisional Licenses are Issued First. In most cases, the CCC will issue provisional licenses to marijuana businesses. These are provisional licenses that give companies approval to obtain the real estate needed to develop a marijuana establishment. That being said, a final license will not be issued until the CCC has inspected the facility and certified that it meets state law.
  3. Local Zoning Regulation Matter. The CCC will only issue a final marijuana license approval if a company can prove that its property meets all local zoning rules and regulations. To be clear, some communities in the state are not currently zoned for marijuana establishments. If you are starting a marijuana operation, it is imperative that you work closely with the local zoning board as early on in the business development process as possible. Local zoning approval is a must.

Starting a Business in the Cannabis Industry is Complicated

The marijuana industry is still brand new to Massachusetts. As of right now, the regulatory licensing and permitting process is far from streamlined. Business owners and investors can benefit from seeking professional support. Among other things, a Massachusetts Cannabis attorney who has experience handling marijuana licensure issues will be able to:

  • Assist companies in finding a viable site for a marijuana operation
  • Represent companies in real estate negotiations and business planning
  • Handle legal applications and paperwork with state and local regulators

Starting up a cannabis-related business in Massachusetts requires a considerable amount of time, energy, and financial capital. If you are preparing to enter this type of venture, it is crucial that you take the proper steps to protect your investment. An experienced legal professional can offer actionable guidance.

For more information on this area of law, see our overviews of cannabis law and real estate.

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