State cannabis regulators came to the Island Thursday to hear from local cannabis producers, retailers, and medical and recreational consumers who say that a ban on the transport of cannabis by ferry will put the Island’s legal cannabis sellers out of business.

Ava Concepcion, acting chair of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, said that the meeting at the Oak Bluffs Library was designed to help commissioners “gain an understanding of those directly impacted” by the ban.

The state and federal law forbids the transport of medical or recreational cannabis across the Vineyard Sound, as overwater transport falls under federal jurisdiction, and possession and distribution of cannabis is still a federal crime.

“Know that there is a delciate balance between state law, federal law, but we want to figure out how to really go about this in a way that’s really thoughtful and meaningful,” Ms. Concepion said. 

The state Cannabis Control Commission held a meeting at the Oak Bluffs Library Thursday. — Noah Glasgow

Geoff Rose, owner of Vineyard Haven dispensary Island Time, told commissioners Thursday that state regulators should not enforce federal laws when they’re under a mandate from voters to “provide all citizens with access to cannabis products.”

“We’re not asking permission to endorse shipment to and from the Islands,” Mr. Rose said. “Only to allow licensees to take the same risks of federal enforcement we take every day as participants in this industry without fear of [state] enforcement.”

“It’s high time that the Islands overburden licensees have access” to off-Island resources, Mr. Rose said.

In May, Island cannabis grower and dispensary Fine Fettle, which offers both medical and recreational cannabis products, announced that it would be forced to close its doors under financial and regulatory stress.

“There’s so many different costs on this Island that have resulted in the current situation we’re in, where we’ve been losing money year over year,” Chloe Loftfield, general manager of Fine Fettle, told the commission Thursday. “It’s simply not a sustainable business anymore.”

One week after Fine Fettle released its decision, Mr. Rose announced that Island Time too would be closing its doors. Unable to import goods due to the ban on overwater traffic, Island Time had purchased its cannabis goods from Fine Fettle.

Island Time later filed a lawsuit against the commission, arguing that the ban on overwater transport placed an undue burden on local dispensaries. Mr. Rose and the commission agreed to pause the lawsuit in advance of Thursday’s meeting, with the hope of reaching a settlement.

Ms. Loftfield said Fine Fettle’s existing stock of cannabis goods is expected to last only through the middle of September, and might be exhausted sooner. Fine Fettle is the only location on the Island where prescriptions for medical cannabis can be filled.

More than 200 Islanders hold prescriptions for medical cannabis, commissioners said. Ms. Loftfield stressed that hundreds of summer residents and tourists from across the state also have their prescription filled at Fine Fettle over the summer months, Ms. Loftfield said.

Already Fine Fettle has experienced shortages of goods requested by prescription holders, including cannabis gummies, employee Jon Kardon told commissioners.

Per state law, any dispensary filling medical cannabis prescriptions must grow, test, package, and distribute its own cannabis products. The law allows regulators to keep a close eye on the source of medical cannabis. On the Island, however, the costs of the vertical integration requirement are unsustainable, Ms. Loftfield said.

On Thursday, Mr. Rose called for commissioners to relax vertical integration requirements as well as suspend enforcement on the overwater transportation ban. Only by relaxing both vertical integration and transportation regulations could the Island continue to provide medication to cannabis prescription holders, he said.

Mr. Rose and others feared that the loss of safe medical and recreational cannabis would push Islanders to purchase or transport cannabis goods illegally.

“We love providing access to clean, safe cannabis for everybody,” Mr. Kardon told the commission. When Fine Fettle opened, customers were thrilled to have “tested and safe product” as well as different prescription medications available for their use, he said.

“I’m really, really afraid for those people who are 18-plus and want to be able to treat their medical disorders and medical illnesses, and feel that they need to go to the guy down the street,” Ms. Loftfield said.