Marijuana businesses are coming, but they still face challenges
By Dan Adams Globe Staff May 16, 2018
With the expected start of Massachusetts recreational marijuana sales just weeks away, you might think cannabis companies would be giddy, eager to pocket their slice of a market that could be worth upward of $1 billion by 2020.
But industry executives predict that fewer than a dozen retail pot shops will open in July.
In fact, the nascent recreational industry and the state agency charged with overseeing it are bracing for a painfully slow rollout — and the accompanying disappointment of voters and consumers who were initially promised sales would start months earlier, in January 2018.
Dispensary operators and would-be pot entrepreneurs are preoccupied with a list of pressing challenges: local restrictions on marijuana businesses; the reluctance of banks, landlords, and traditional lenders to work with them; and the lingering stigma around the product they hope to sell.
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“We’re just at the starting line,” said David Torrisi, the president of the Commonwealth Dispensary Association. “It’s going to take 18 to 24 months until there’s a robust retail marketplace. People who want to get into this industry need to be in it for the long haul, because it’s going to be a slog getting it established.”
Torrisi, whose group represents the medical dispensaries that are likely to be among the first to secure recreational licenses this summer, and other industry experts say the hesitance of local officials is the biggest brake on the cannabis industry’s growth.
Roughly two-thirds of the state’s 351 municipalities have enacted either permanent bans or temporary moratoriums on licensed marijuana companies.
The remaining cities and towns, meanwhile, aren’t exactly rolling out the green