Pubdate: Thu, 15 Feb 2018
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2018 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: Joshua Miller


Political pressure on the state Cannabis Control Commission
intensified Thursday, as Attorney General Maura Healey and 78 state
legislators joined Governor Charlie Baker in pressing the independent
agency to roll out a more limited recreational marijuana industry this

In letters sent at the close of a public comment period on the
commission's draft rules for pot companies, Healey and the lawmakers
urged cannabis regulators to delay their provisional plans to license
marijuana cafes, delivery services that don't also operate a physical
storefront, and "mixed-use" businesses such as art galleries and
theaters that want to sell cannabis on the side.

Healey argued in her letter that the commission already faces a
"monumental task" as it prepares to oversee retail marijuana shops and
their suppliers. The agency should wait to tackle the additional
licenses until the basics are in place, she said, adding that pot
sales in such venues pose "complex regulatory and enforcement
considerations that can only benefit from gained experience."

The attorney general is particularly worried that allowing marijuana
to be sold at "mixed-use" shops would make it possible for under-age
patrons and employees to get their hands on the drug. Meanwhile, she
said, marijuana cafes "encourage the consumption of marijuana outside
the home," and could cause an increase in stoned drivers that police
would struggle to contain in the absence of a roadside pot-impairment
test. Finally, Healey wrote, pot delivery vans could make attractive
targets for criminals, and could allow for sales to minors out of the
eyeshot of cameras.

"While there may be a time to consider the introduction of" the other
licenses, Healey concluded, "we believe it should not be in the
initial months of implementation."

The letter from lawmakers echoed those concerns - and those expressed
in a series of letters by Baker's administration - arguing that the
controversial licenses should be delayed "until it is clearly
illustrated that the initial retail marketplace has been successfully

The state's top two legislators, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and
Senate President Harriette L. Chandler, did not sign the letter, but
other legislative leaders did, including House majority leader Ronald
Mariano. Chandler said in a statement Thursday that she supports a
"measured" roll-out of recreational pot sales, while DeLeo suggested
earlier this week that he did not favor a legislative

Marijuana advocates have launched a counter-campaign, accusing the
political leaders - most of whom opposed legalization - of interfering
with the commission's independence. They also argue that delaying
licensure of businesses that are more affordable to start up would
hurt would-be small-business owners and minority communities that
suffered disproportionately high arrest rates for drug crimes.

"This is further evidence of a coordinated, calculated intimidation
campaign against the Cannabis Control Commission, using near
carbon-copy rhetoric," said Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for the
Massachusetts branch of the Marijuana Policy Project, which sponsored
the marijuana ballot initiative.

Despite her concerns, Healey praised the panel for working quickly
since its top officials were named in September.

She also said other license categories proposed by the panel would
allow all to participate: "microbusinesses" that could grow modest
quantities of marijuana and deliver it to consumers' homes, and
collectives of small-scale cannabis farmers that would sell their
cannabis through retailers.
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