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The State's Cannabis Control Commission Begins Its Work02:52
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Steven Hoffman (Sam Doran/State House News Service)MoreCloseclosemore
Steven Hoffman (Sam Doran/State House News Service)

As the clock ticks toward next summer's opening of the first retail recreational marijuana sales in Massachusetts, the commission charged with setting up regulations for the new industry holds its first business meeting Tuesday.

Writing regulations and setting up an industry licensing system are the main objectives for the Cannabis Control Commission. But Tuesday's meeting will focus on more mundane aspects of setting up a state agency.

Since the commission is starting from scratch, members will get the process rolling by introducing themselves to one another, and discussing some interim rules and appointments.

Chairman Steven Hoffman says the commission has the needed skill sets to get the job done.

"We are all very excited about getting started," Hoffman told reporters last week. "We recognize that we've got a lot of work to do in a very short period of time. But we are committed to work as hard and as effectively as we possibly can to get the job done fairly, safely and on time."

Time is the biggest challenge facing the commission. Retail marijuana sales are supposed to begin July 1 of next year -- six months later than the original law approved by voters. While making no promises, Hoffman seems reasonably confident that deadline can be met.

"There are always impossible deadlines that people say can't be met, and what you do is you put your head down and figure it out," the former Bain & Co. executive said. "Try to be creative and roll up your sleeves and get stuff done, at least in the private sector. And I have no reason to believe the government is going to be any different. I'm a realist and if the reality is it can't be done, it can't be done, but I don't accept that right now. We're going to get this done."

The law gives the CCC until March 15 to draw up regulations for licensing marijuana businesses. The commission is to begin accepting applications from those businesses in April.

Still to be determined is exactly what it will cost the state to get the retail marijuana industry up and running. $2.3 million has been set aside to initially fund the commission. Supporters of the referendum that legalized recreational marijuana say that's woefully inadequate, and fear a lack of proper funding could cause delays in the implementation of the law.

But state Rep. Mark Cusack (D-Braintree), who co-chairs the Legislature's Marijuana Policy Committee, says lawmakers are willing to provide more money.

"We knew going in that they needed money to get off the ground and that's what we gave them, but we weren't going to give them a blank check," Cusack said. "We wanted to hear from the commissioners and possibly the executive director what they need, in terms of funding, before we committed that."

Cusack says there are some supplemental state budgets in the pipeline that could be used to provide more funding for the CCC to pay for infrastructure, including the purchase of a seed-to-sale tracking computer system that will need to be put in place and could cost more than $5 million.

This segment aired on September 12, 2017.

Steve Brown Twitter Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's State House reporter.

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