“My hope is to continue building a best practice agency that Massachusetts can be proud of,” CCC Chairman Steven Hoffman told Boston.com in a statement.
Hoffman and the other four commissioners on the CCC, which now oversees the state’s legal marijuana industry, are focusing on ensuring its rollout results in a market that is both safe and inclusive. But that’s no simple task.
As the industry enters its first full year, here’s what each of the five commissioners say they’ll be working on.
The continuing prohibition of marijuana at the federal level has created headaches for cannabis businesses in the growing number of states where it has been legalized, as many financial institutions are hesitant to provide banking services to dispensaries and other companies.
“I plan to continue raising awareness about the challenges involved with banking a Schedule 1 substance and advocating for secure cash management services and safe transportation of marijuana revenue,” Hoffman said.
In addition to the practical challenges and safety concerns, the lack of banks serving the cash-heavy cannabis industry makes it particularly hard for budding entrepreneurs affected by previous marijuana laws — which is disproportionately communities of color — to access the loans needed to start a new business. Hoffman says it’s a “critical” challenge the CCC is looking to address.
“Our ongoing engagement with public and private entities who can provide financing for equity applicants also will be critical to making sure the Commission meets its mandate of enabling full industry participation by communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition,” he said.
As of last month, the CCC began overseeing the Bay State’s medical marijuana program, in addition to the adult-use industry. Some medical-use patients have complained that the CCC hasn’t yet synthesized some of the differing regulations in the dual markets. Hoffman said in a recent interview that the agency plans to propose some general “tweaks” by the end of June.
“Post-program transfer, I remain focused on maintaining smooth medical use of marijuana operations, which includes making changes, when necessary, to enhance the program’s responsiveness to patients,” he told Boston.com.
Commissioner Shaleen Title:
Before being appointed as a CCC commissioner, Title was a longtime marijuana legalization activist, who often highlighted how prohibition of the drug disproportionately impacted minorities. Now filling the “social justice” seat on the CCC, she has led the agency’s efforts to ensure the new legal marijuana industry is equitable.
One big part of that goal, Title says, is the CCC’s data-tracking initiative.
“Now that stores are operating, a top priority is robust data collection and continuing to make that data available as part of our open data strategy,” she said. “By tracking our costs as well as revenues and closely following public health, public safety, and economic data, policymakers at all levels can make informed decisions. Given the striking lack of diversity in the current group of licensees, data-driven decision-making around our mandates for diversity and equity will be key.”
The CCC’s social equity program, which provides preferential treatment and assistance to those in communities with high past rates of marijuana-related arrests, is a first of its kind. Title says using data to track its effectiveness will be critical not only for Massachusetts, but for other states looking to follow suit with similar programs.
The CCC is also planning to discuss a timeline for developing regulations for delivery and social consumption at their next meeting on Jan. 10. Title notes the the commission voted to reserve these “lower-capital business license types” for small businesses and equity program participants. However, she has said it will likely be a “matter of years” before social consumption establishments, like cannabis cafes, actually open in Massachusetts.
Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan:
Flanagan, a former state senator and the commission’s public health appointee, says she’s focused on “preventing underage access to marijuana products and supporting responsible consumption among adults.”
“As part of the ongoing roll out of the ‘More About Marijuana’ public awareness campaign, I plan to continue connecting trusted adults to the information that helps them talk with young people, teens, and kids about the consequences of drug use, and also promote the prevention and recovery resources available to Massachusetts residents (including the Substance Use Hotline),” she said.
Flanagan also says she expects all marijuana establishment applicants and licensees — which are required to enter agreements with their host municipalities — will continue to analyze the impacts they have on their local community.
“I will keep monitoring their plans to mitigate public health risks and promote consumer education around safe, lawful marijuana use,” she said.
Commissioner Kay Doyle:
Doyle, the former public counsel for the state’s medical marijuana program under the Department of Public Health, is hoping to ensure the industry is green in more than one way.
As the chair of the CCC’s Energy and Environmental Workgroup, Doyle says she is focused on “transforming” the state’s cannabis cultivation and product manufacturing practices into “a nation-leading energy-efficient model and promoting sustainable waste and agricultural best management practices.”
The commission has set strict limits for the “energy-intense” marijuana cultivation industry in Massachusetts. Doyle told WBUR this past summer that she wanted to make sure the industry, which will eventually include large-scale cultivation facilities, is compliant with Massachusetts laws requiring an 80 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Doyle says she’s also working on “educating and collaborating with municipalities toward an equitable and diverse cannabis industry, with an emphasis on promoting involvement of farmers and small business,” as well as incorporating medical marijuana officials and patients into the program.
Commissioner Britte McBride:
McBride, who is the CCC’s public safety appointee, says her priorities are working with industry and government officials to prevent marijuana-impaired driving.
Massachusetts was recently awarded federal funding to train more police officers in recognizing the drug impairment, an initiative that some members of the CCC’s special panel on OUI had recommended. Officials also voted to ask lawmakers to expand the state’s implied consent law, which says drivers can temporarily lose their license if they refuse a sobriety test, to drug-impaired driving.
McBride says she’s also working to develop the licensing of cannabis research companies and financial assistance regulations.
“I will support the development of the Commission’s research license and processes that will spur relevant, valid, and critically needed cannabis research — which Massachusetts is well-placed to lead — and continue strengthening the fundamentals of our regulatory system so access to capital and money management is available to those who seek to participate in this newly legal industry,”she said.