Massachusetts Cannabis Commission Reshaped To Start 2021
Freshly restocked with three new members, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission is gearing up for a year that will include the implementation of recently-approved regulations that allow for home delivery of non-medical marijuana, continuing to press for legislation that Beacon Hill mostly ignored last session, and possibly even another round of regulatory revisions.
"I'm incredibly excited about bringing new blood, new perspective, new energy, new ideas into the commission," Chairman Steven Hoffman said Thursday. He added, "I always think bringing some new blood, some new perspective is only going to be beneficial. That being said, it'll probably be a little messy as we all figure it out -- how to work together and get people focused on different parts of our to-do list, which is a very lengthy to-do list."
Since the CCC approved new regulations to reshape the legal marijuana industry in late November, Shaleen Title and Britte McBride have departed and have been replaced by Nurys Camargo and Ava Callender Concepcion, respectively. Bruce Stebbins, who had served as a member of the Gaming Commission since its inception, has filled the seat that Kay Doyle resigned in May.
Camargo and Stebbins participated in Thursday's CCC meeting -- Stebbins was elected secretary of the commission and Camargo was chosen as the commissions' treasurer -- but Concepcion only observed since she was appointed earlier this week and has not yet had the chance to go through the same onboarding process as the other new members.
There is plenty for the new members to get up to speed on. Executive Director Shawn Collins updated the commission on the implementation of the new regulations, which created a two-pronged delivery license framework, made changes to the medical marijuana caregiver program and more. He told commissioners to expect that the full implementation process will take six to eight months with an estimated cost of about $127,000 for software updates.
That doesn't necessarily mean that it will be six to eight months before cannabis consumers will be able to get joints, edibles and more delivered to their doorsteps, Collins and Hoffman both said.
"I really appreciated his openness, honesty and carefulness about laying out the timeline but that doesn't mean that everything's gonna wait until August and they're gonna flip a light switch. We're going to get stuff done along the way and delivery is going to be at the front of that queue," Hoffman said after Thursday's meeting.
While the implementation process is underway, the CCC will also be active on Beacon Hill, Hoffman said.
Last session, the CCC formally asked the Legislature to grant it "statutory authority to review and regulate" host community agreements, the legally-required contracts between marijuana businesses and their host communities. Though the House approved a bill to do just that in February, the Senate never took it up.
The commission has also been pushing for lawmakers to give the green light for social consumption sites -- locations similar to cigar bars where adults could buy and use marijuana. The CCC has already laid out the framework of a pilot program to include 12 municipalities willing to host on-site consumption, but the agency said the pilot "would not be able to begin without a change in state law or the passage of legislation that will first allow cities and towns to authorize social consumption in their communities."
Between the transition from Robert DeLeo to Ronald Mariano as House speaker, possible changes to the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy and the addition of three new CCC members, Hoffman said he expects the commission's lobbying efforts will be reinvigorated this session.
"I don't intend to give up," the chairman said. "We asked for those things only because we thought they were incredibly important to allow the commission to achieve its mandates and its obligations to the state and to its citizens. That hasn't changed. I still think they're really important."
Host community agreements have been a persistent thorn in the side of regulators, marijuana entrepreneurs and advocates almost since the CCC began licensing businesses. Business owners, lawyers and lobbyists have shared stories about cities or towns demanding more from businesses than the state's laws allow, and the CCC's own analysis found municipalities trying to skirt the spirit of the law, but declared the commission itself powerless to stop them.
The CCC's Cannabis Advisory Board had previously recommended allowing social consumption and advocates say that it can reduce the risk of children getting ahold of the drug, allow people who are prohibited from using marijuana at home due to lease restrictions a sanctioned place to consume it, and may limit how much legal marijuana is illegally transported out of state by tourists.
As if the commission did not already have a lot on its plate, Hoffman said he plans to discuss with the new commissioners and Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan what they would like to see discussed as part of the next round of regulatory rewriting.
"I absolutely think we need to develop a plan for when and what we're going to cover in the next regulatory session," the chairman said. He added, "That being said, I've been pretty public and explicit I think it's important we take a break. I think it's important to the staff, I think it's important to the commission, I think most importantly it's important to the industry not to keep changing rules on them and letting them adapt to regulations that we just promulgated ... So we're not going to jump into it, but we will absolutely in the short term have a conversation about what topics and what timing."