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First Instructors Approved For Mandatory Marijuana Vendor Training In Massachusetts

Marijuana is dispensed from a jar

Anyone who handles or sells marijuana in a licensed store in Massachusetts will soon have to receive state-approved training.

The Cannabis Control Commission Thursday approved four applications to provide instruction under the Responsible Vendor Training Program –a first of its kind to be mandated statewide by a marijuana regulatory agency.

Chairman Steven Hoffman said all owners, managers, and employees of a marijuana business will be required to take courses from a certified provider within 90 days of hire.

"We want informed responsible consumers and we want therefore the employees of the establishments to be able to give accurate and complete information to the consumers so they can make informed choices," said Hoffman.

The classes are required to cover topics that include the effects of marijuana on the body, preventing diversion and sales to minors, and how the seed-to-sale product tracking system works.

The commission voted unanimously to accredit Quality Control Analytics, Cannabis Trainers, Stoker Consulting LLC, and Anthony Bartucca to offer approved courses for marijuana vendors.

  Applications from an additional eight entities seeking to have curriculum approved for the vendor training requirement are still being reviewed by the cannabis commission staff.

Hoffman said he could not estimate how many certified instructors will be needed to satisfy the requirement that nearly everyone employed in the burgeoning marijuana industry in Massachusetts receive the specified training.

" Our licensees are required to train their employees right now and have been all along, so its not like there is a gap that we need to fill we are just trying to make it better and more effective," said Hoffman.

One applicant who was turned down in the first wave of approvals for certified training programs, Mary Hull of Monson, voiced a familiar lament about the marijuana industry in Massachusetts: small businesses are being shut out.

"There is no industry out there for people with  no money," said Hull.

One of the vendors certified by the commission, Cannabis Trainers, has operated in Colorado since 2014.   Hoffman defended the decision to go with an out-of-state company.

"We wanted the best vendors for the program," Hoffman told reporters.

The commission’s social equity program, which is intended to help communities and individuals that were disproportionately damaged by the war on drugs, does not apply to the training companies.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, which was held in Springfield, the commission approved 46 license renewals for marijuana businesses even though most had failed to report progress toward diversity goals.

Hoffman insisted the commission will not let the license holders slide indefinitely.

" We are trying not to be punitive here," said Hoffman. The commission attached conditions to several of the license renewals demanding updates in writing in 60 days. 

" We are not going to let this fall through the cracks," said Hoffman.

Just over five percent of the license holders approved for one-year renewals are listed as minority-owned.   About four percent of the companies are owned by women.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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