Marijuana opponents call on state to halt regulations
The CCC started a 10-location public input tour Monday under tight deadlines they must hit in order to live up to the assurances that legal marijuana sales will begin July 1 in the Bay State. Voters legalized marijuana and policymakers have set out to structure an industry that will be tightly controlled, shrink illicit sales and counteract some of the social justice effects of marijuana prohibition.
But the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance says the CCC's draft regulations will actually "benefit the marijuana industry, increase access to our youth, increase the black market, and drive further health disparities and inequities in some of our most vulnerable communities."
"Our best recommendation is suspend the promulgation of these regulations, and delay the opening of a commercial marijuana market in Massachusetts until the best interests of the people and our communities are fully considered," the Prevention Alliance wrote in an email to supporters over the weekend.
MPA said its chief concerns are that marijuana remains illegal at the federal level and the Trump administration has signaled a renewed interest in enforcing that federal prohibition, and that the CCC could be subject to "regulatory capture" and cede too much power to the marijuana industry.
"The CCC's regulatory language drives market growth, targets the poor, and is counter-productive to the state's drug use and addiction prevention goals," MPA wrote in an email of talking points sent to supporters. "The CCC's regulatory measures are counter-productive to every community's social-emotional learning (SEL) goals and may widen the academic achievement gap we are trying to close in Massachusetts."
The group, which worked to oppose the 2016 ballot initiative that legalized marijuana, urged its supporters to attend the CCC's public hearings and send written testimony to the agency before the Feb. 15 deadline.
"We must help the CCC get these regulations in shape, or we risk fast-paced spread of a new addiction epidemic to THC products in the Commonwealth," the group said.
Appearing on WBZ-TV with host Jon Keller on Sunday, CCC Chairman Steven Hoffman said the agency wants to hear from all sides during its listening tour and plans to publicly debate any changes to the regulations after everyone has weighed in.
"There are compelling arguments on both sides. We listen, we take everything you're hearing from all sides under consideration. I will tell you that all of the things we decided in terms of our draft regulations, we decided in public. So people understand the debate we had, what the commissioners had to say and how we tried to make those decisions," Hoffman said. "I will tell you that I don't remember us ever talking about whether we were going too far or not far enough or too fast. We're trying to do this right. We're trying to honor the will of the voters by making this accessible but making sure we're doing everything we possibly can to enhance public health and public safety."
After four days of policy discussions in December, the CCC approved draft regulations that would govern the cultivation, processing, manufacturing, transportation, storage, sale and social use of marijuana, as well as the process businesses must follow to become licensed to legally deal in marijuana.
The regulations cover issues like whether to license establishments where an adult could purchase and use single-servings of marijuana, how to make the fledgling legal industry accessible to racially and economically diverse communities, what price to set for license fees, what security precautions the state will require of marijuana establishments, and what restrictions to place on marijuana marketing.
The CCC will hold public hearings on the draft regulations each day this week, wrapping up with a hearing next Tuesday in Roxbury. The agency is planning to discuss and vote on any changes to their draft before filing its final regulations by March 9, ahead of the March 15 statutory deadline.
The CCC cannot begin to review license applications until April 1 and cannot issue any license until June 1. Hoffman has said that the CCC is committed to having legal marijuana sales begin on July 1, but told Keller on Sunday that the launch date could be pushed back if the regulators are not ready.
"If we're not ready, it will slide," the chairman said. "It's more important to do this right than on time but right now we think we can do both."
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