Massachusetts leaders huddle for “first conversation” on marijuana law

The marijuana law modeled its regulatory panel after the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission

BOSTON (STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE) – House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Monday suggested a new approach state officials could take in regulating the new legal marijuana industry in Massachusetts.

The ballot law that legalized adult use of marijuana and set up a regulatory structure for the market calls for a Cannabis Control Commission within Treasurer Deborah Goldberg’s office. The Legislature agreed to delay implementation of the law and its new Marijuana Policy Committee has been considering adjustments to it, including potentially removing the panel from Treasurer Deborah Goldberg’s purview and creating a more independent commission.

After meeting with Goldberg, Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Senate President Stan Rosenberg on Monday afternoon, DeLeo said he thinks the state “can do a combination of both.”

“Our conversations today were trying to get an amalgamation, if you will, without coming to any final conclusion, to try to find out what can work in relation to marijuana,” DeLeo said.

Goldberg called the meeting “a great first conversation” and said discussion covered “a lot of the technical aspects.”

“I think this was just a first conversation, and there’s a recognition that we will all be working collaboratively, and with the members of the committee because they have done a significant amount of work to try and figure out how to meet the needs of and the will of the people of Massachusetts and the way in which they voted,” Goldberg said.

Watch: Treasurer Goldberg | President Rosenberg, Speaker DeLeo | Gov. Baker

Goldberg has said removing marijuana oversight from her office could lead to missed deadlines, and Baker last month said her office “knows more about this stuff than just about anybody else in the building and that should be respected as the process moves forward.”

At the state Treasury, legislative affairs official Shawn Collins and general counsel Sarah Kim have spent significant time researching marijuana policy, according to officials. Touting her business background and the need for predictability for employers, Goldberg said earlier this spring that the Treasury has been working on marijuana-related issues for 15 months and has even talked to state building officials about possible office space for the commission.

The marijuana law modeled its regulatory panel after the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, an agency within the treasurer’s office. The Cannabis Control Commission would have three members, all appointed by Goldberg.

Rosenberg and other officials have suggested the marijuana panel could instead be modeled after the state’s Gaming Commission, which has five members with specific areas of expertise. The governor appoints the chair, and the attorney general and treasurer each appoint one member. The remaining two members are appointed by consensus among the governor, attorney general and treasurer.

Marijuana is “distinctive in the sense that it’s not like gaming, it’s not like alcohol, therefore it should get its own process,” DeLeo said on Monday.

Lawmakers and Baker in December delayed the implementation of most parts of the marijuana law by six months, pushing the earliest opening date for retail marijuana shops to July 2018 and giving Goldberg until Sept. 1 of this year to appoint commissioners.

DeLeo said state officials plan on meeting the new deadlines.

“That’s still our intention,” he said. “That’s what we’re working towards, to make sure we stay to the dates we’ve talked about so far.”

Continuing Coverage: Marijuana News