Building Permit on a door

Apply for a Cannabis Business Permit

Inspectional Services

Cannabis Business permits are issued by the Cambridge Inspectional Services Department (ISD). Anyone seeking to open a Cannabis Retail Store or operate as a Cultivator, Product Manufacturer, and/or Transporter in Cambridge must obtain a Cannabis Business permit. The Cannabis Business permit must be obtained prior to final approval from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (MA CCC) for a Marijuana Establishment License.

In addition to the Cannabis Business Permit, all prospective Cannabis Businesses are required to secure a Special Permit from the Cambridge Planning Board and a Host Community Agreement (HCA) from the City Manager’s Office. Applicants may move through some steps for each requirement simultaneously, as noted below. These requirements are in addition to any Marijuana Establishment License issued from the MA CCC.


Zoning Compliance

Contact ISD or the Community Development Department (CDD) staff to ensure that the proposed project is in compliance with with the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance and the Cannabis Business Ordinance. Among other regulations, applicants should be prepared to show that the proposed business location is not within 300 feet of a park or other facility that supports youth activities and that the proposed business is not within 1800 feet of another cannabis business. See the Cannabis Business Zoning and Cannabis Business Ordinance.

Transportation Conditions

The Traffic, Parking & Transportation Department will require a traffic study to determine what mitigation efforts may be needed to ease anticipated trip generation. The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) report “Local Impacts of Commercial Cannabis” may be helpful for new businesses in the cannabis industry.

Prominent Educational Materials Displayed

Applicant must provide detailed information about how they will inform customers about restrictions on public consumption and workplace use, the risks of second-hand smoke, and dangers of operating a motor vehicle while impaired.

How to Start

Note: Certain City and State requirements for obtaining a Cambridge Cannabis Permit can be undertaken simultaneously. These steps are noted below.

Pre-Application Steps

  1. Cannabis Permit - Meet with staff in the Community Development Department (CDD) to confirm that the proposed place of business meets zoning regulations, learn about the Cambridge Special Permit process, certify status as an MA CCC Economic Empowerment Applicant or Social Equity Applicant, and discuss plans for meeting Cannabis Permit application criteria. (See Cannabis Business Ordinance)
  2. Host Community Agreement (HCA) Letter of Intent - Submit a letter to the Cambridge City Manager’s Office indicating intent to enter into an HCA, pending Planning Board approval. This letter of intent is required as part of a complete application for a Cambridge Special Permit from the Planning Board (see Step 2B).
  3. Community Meeting - The MA CCC requires Marijuana Establishment License applicants to host a public meeting prior to obtaining an executed HCA with the City of Cambridge.  Additionally, a community meeting is also required for the Cambridge Special Permit process. One meeting may be used to meet both requirements. Consult staff in CDD for how to schedule this meeting.

Local Process - Initial Steps

  1. Cannabis Business Permit Application - Submit a complete Cannabis Business Permit to CDD staff to determine priority status.
  2. Planning Board Special Permit - Submit a complete Special Permit Application to the Cambridge Planning Board. A hearing will be held and approval of a Special Permit will be granted or denied based on compliance with zoning criteria (see Cannabis Zoning Ordinance)
  3. HCA Execution - Following Special Permit approval, the applicant must finalize the HCA with the City Manager's Office. See application materials. 

State Process - Initial Steps

  1. Apply to the MA CCC - File for a Marijuana Licence with the MA CCC. The applicant is expected to provided the executed HCA received from the City Manager's Office. (see MA CCC application materials)
  2. Local Verification - Upon receipt of a complete application, the MA CCC will contact the City of Cambridge to verify that all local bylaws and ordinances are being met and to verify that an HCA is in place. 
  3. Provisional Marijuana Establishment License - The MA CCC will issue a Provisional License within 90 days of receipt of complete application. A provisional License is not sufficient for operating a Cannabis Business in the City of Cambridge.

Local Approval 

  1. Cannabis Business Permit - Submit Provisional License to ISD. Following receipt, ISD will issue a Cannabis Business Permit.
  2. Building Permit - Following City review of applicant's MA CCC Provisional License, Cannabis Business Permit, and compliance with the Planning Board's Special Permit decision, ISD issues Building Permit.
  3. Certificate of Occupancy - Following City review of applicant's MA CCC Provisional License, Cannabis Business Permit, and compliance with the Planning Board's Special Permit decision, ISD issues Certificate of Occupancy.

State Approval

  1. Final Marijuana Establishment License - The MA CCC will issue a Final License upon receipt of applicant's architectural plan review and following physical inspection of the premises. 

Tips and FAQs

Do I have to apply for the Cambridge Cannabis Business Permit if I am already a registered medical marijuana dispensary (RMD) in Cambridge?

Yes. Additionally, you will need to obtain a new Special Permit from the Cambridge Planning Board. 

Can I file for a Cambridge Cannabis Business Permit before a MA CCC application?

Yes. If you start your MA CCC Marijuana Establishment License first, be aware that your License application will not be considered complete by MA CCC until they have received confirmation of your completed Cambridge Cannabis Business Permit as well as any other local approvals such as the Cambridge Planning Board Special Permit.

Do I have to host two public meetings – one for the MA CCC Marijuana Establishment License and one for the Cambridge Special Permit?

No. You may host one public meeting to meet both requirements. It is recommended that you meet with staff in the Community Development Department to learn what is required for the Cambridge Planning Board Special Permit process.

When do I pay my Host Agreement Fee?

Answer to come

Is there a cap on the number of cannabis businesses allowed in Cambridge?

The MA CCC restricts the number of Marijuana Establishment Licenses that any individual can hold to three (which includes operations that sell both medicinal and recreational marijuana). 

The City of Cambridge has zoning and permitting regulations that may impact where a prospective cannabis business could readily open.

Page was last modified on 8/26/2019 7:20 PM
Provide Feedback

Got feedback?

Please provide your feedback below: