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Massachusetts Officials Allow Marijuana Transports Over Water To Martha’s Vineyard And Nantucket Amid Supply Concerns



“It really is a positive change and we’re really hopeful that this means a bright future for cannabis on Martha’s Vineyard.”

By Bhaamati Borkhetaria, CommonWealth Beacon

Cannabis businesses on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket will be able to transport marijuana over state waters starting midnight on Friday, under an administrative order by the Cannabis Control Commission.

Commissioners last week heard concerns from patients, advocates and residents of the islands, about the looming loss of access to safe and legal cannabis on the two islands because cannabis could not be transported to and from the mainland. The situation was presented as being particularly dire for medical marijuana patients.

The commission voted unanimously to pass the administrative order “regarding the transport of marijuana and marijuana products over state territorial waters to and from marijuana establishments and medical marijuana treatment centers in the counties of Dukes and Nantucket.”

“This was turned around in a really quick time frame,” said Commissioner Kimberly Roy. “At the end of the day, this was about public health and public safety and patients and consumers alike having access to safely regulated products.”

The two islands have long been siloed from the mainland cannabis market because the commission has not written regulations on transporting cannabis over water.

The problem stems from the unusual status of marijuana: legal under state law but illegal at the federal level. Transporting cannabis over federal waters could lead to prosecution for operators.

This has forced dispensaries on the Vineyard and Nantucket to source all of their marijuana from cultivators on the islands, an expensive move. And now, the only cultivator on the Vineyard is set to close its operations.

There are currently two dispensaries on Martha’s Vineyard: Island Time and Fine Fettle. Island Time temporarily shut its doors in May and Fine Fettle has said that without the commission’s intervention, they will close by the end of the summer.

The woes sparked a lawsuit against the Cannabis Control Commission, with businesses arguing there are water routes from the mainland to the islands through state territorial waters, rather than federal waters.

Island Time, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, was previously cited by the commission when the owner, Geoff Rose, transported cannabis products to Martha’s Vineyard over state territorial waters. According to the lawsuit, the commission ruled that cannabis products cannot be transported from the mainland to the Vineyard or Nantucket.

With the new administrative order, cannabis businesses will no longer be reliant only on cultivators on the islands but will be able to transport cannabis and cannabis products to the islands using state water routes.

“Today is a great day in providing equity for operators on the islands,” Rose, who plans to reopen his business, said in a phone interview. “I truly appreciate the efforts of the cannabis commission to address this very important issue which has been long overdue for attention. I look forward to continuing to serve patients and consumers with safe and high-quality products.”

Adam Fine, the attorney representing Island Time and the other cannabis business involved in the lawsuit said that the plaintiffs are planning to drop the lawsuit following this administrative order.

Added Chloe Loftfield, Fine Fettle’s general manager: “It really is a positive change and we’re really hopeful that this means a bright future for cannabis on Martha’s Vineyard.”

While the administrative order will provide immediate relief for dispensaries struggling to stock their shelves, the commission will still have to update their regulations to incorporate the change. Commissioner Bruce Stebbins also encouraged the commission to prioritize and expedite the granting of licenses based in Dukes County and Nantucket.

This article first appeared on CommonWealth Beacon and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.

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