While it may be a while before the first recreational cannabis sales are made in Massachusetts, the Baker administration is expected to miss a deadline explicitly spelled out in the 2017 marijuana law passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Charlie Baker.
One part of the law — Section 61 -- directs the state's secretary of public safety to make a recommendation to the Legislature regarding a statewide system and procedures for civil citations. It also states those recommendations be made “not later than July 1, 2018."
The report would spell out how the administration feels law enforcement agencies should handle minor infractions of the state’s cannabis laws and regulations.
In the closing hour of business Friday afternoon, less than a day and a half before the deadline, a spokesman for Public Safety Secretary Dan Bennett acknowledged the office won't meet the deadline. Felix Browne said the office attorney tasked with compiling the recommendations is out of the country on vacation with his family.
“He has it all in his head,” Browne said. “It will be on the top of his inbox when he gets back."
Supporters of legalized marijuana say they're disappointed by the missed deadline.
“I’m sure that police departments across the state would be appreciative of procedural guidance on handling whatever civil violations may occur,” said Jim Borghesani, the former spokesman for the group that backed the referendum that legalized the use and sale of marijuana. “I hope the Baker administration, despite apparently missing its legal deadline, will provide that guidance as soon as possible."
There have been some misconceptions over deadlines in the cannabis law. Many people were under the impression the law required that retail sales begin on July 1 — this Sunday — but that language is not in the law. The Cannabis Control Commission, the panel tasked with creating the regulations and overseeing the industry, has set July 1 only as a target date to begin issuing licenses.
Meanwhile, the Department of Public Health met its July 1, 2018 statutory deadline of providing a baseline survey of marijuana use among residents. That survey found that one in five adults had used marijuana recreationally in the last 30 days.
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