With just nine months before recreational, or adult-use, marijuana is set to go on sale in Massachusetts, the state’s new Cannabis Control Commission has set an aggressive schedule to hear from the public, hire a permanent executive director, and get down to the business of drawing up regulations that will govern the emerging marijuana industry.
The CCC has set up a series of listening sessions around the state, and is asking citizens to provide input as to what they would like the commission to consider while promulgating the new regulations.
“We thought it was imperative that we actually listen to the public about their concerns and opinions so that we incorporate those into the regulatory development processes,” Chairman Steven Hoffman said at Tuesday's CCC meeting. “I’m not sure if it’s required under statute, but it’s good practice for sure."
The first session will be held at 10 a.m. on Oct. 4 at Holyoke Community College.
Subsequent sessions will be held at:
- Oct. 5: Barnstable Town Hall at 10:30 a.m.
- Oct. 6: Bolling Municipal Building in Roxbury at 8:30 a.m.
- Oct. 10: West Tisbury Public Library at 10:30 a.m.
- Oct. 11: Worcester Public Library at 10 a.m.
- Oct. 12: McCormack State Office Building at 9 a.m.
- Oct. 13: Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield at 1 p.m.
The CCC will also be holding a listening session for 44 invited organizations with known interests in marijuana policy on Oct. 2 at the State House.
As the CCC hears from the public, they’ll also be sorting through resumes for an executive director, who will serve as CEO of the commission.
At their Tuesday meeting, commissioners approved a job description, which says that the purpose of the job is to oversee and administer the daily operations of the CCC and ensure the commission is fulfilling its statutory mandate efficiently and effectively. The executive director also serves as chair of the Cannabis Advisory Committee, the 25-member panel created by the Legislature to offer input and opinions to the CCC.
The timeline for selecting an executive director is very tight, with resumes due Oct. 3. A subcommittee will hold a first round of interviews with candidates in closed, executive sessions on Oct. 11 and 12, with finalists interviewed in a public session Oct. 17. Two days later the full commission will meet to vote on their final choice.
The commission is also in the process of formulating a mission statement. A first draft says the panel's mission is to "honor the will of the voters of Massachusetts by safely, fairly and effectively implementing and administering the laws enabling access to medical and adult use marijuana in the Commonwealth."
Hoffman said honoring the will of the voters, who legalized recreational marijuana last November, has always been a priority.
“I think our job is, the voters said this is what they want," he said. "The Legislature made some modifications, but I don’t think in a fundamental way tampered with the will of the voters. I think they just emphasized some things that they thought were not emphasized in the original initiative.”
Hoffman said the commission is also eager to speak with municipal officials, as many communities are contemplating banning marijuana-related businesses from operating within their borders. The most recent was Milford, which is home to a medical marijuana cultivation facility and a state-licensed marijuana testing laboratory.
Hoffman refused to offer any advice to communities as to whether they should hold off until the CCC draws up regulations, but hinted it might be a wise thing to do.
“We are just starting the process of drafting our regulations, and we want to hear the concerns of cities and towns across the state so that we can incorporate and address those concerns in the regulations that we will draft,” Hoffman said. “We want to make sure the cities and towns understand what I believe are some very strong economic benefits if they were to allow facilities in their town in terms of entrepreneurial opportunities, employment opportunities [and] incremental tax revenue.”
State law says the CCC must have regulations to license marijuana establishments in place by March 15, 2018, and must begin accepting applications for licenses as of April 1.
While the deadlines are tight, Hoffman is confident they will be met. “The law is that we have these deadlines to hit and we are going to hit them,” he said.