MA: Joint Committee Chair – Draft Regs Ignore Law

Photo Credit: Boston Herald

The state rep who helped write the state’s legal marijuana law is blasting several of the Cannabis Control Commission’s draft regulations, saying they appear to have “disregarded” key provisions.

State Rep. Mark J. Cusack (D-Braintree), co-chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy, wrote to the commission that he has “grave concerns” about draft regulations dealing with licenses for on-site social consumption establishments such as cafes and movie theaters, local control over them and minors’ access to those businesses, as well as licenses for delivery-only retailers, and micro-businesses that would be allowed to cultivate, manufacture and deliver pot to consumers.

“There are certain sections and ideas with which I have grave concerns, particularly where legislative intent is disregarded, and areas where it appears the law was even circumvented or just simply ignored,” Cusack said in a letter to the commission.

Cusack said he hopes the commission will listen to his and other officials’ concerns and “take a step back.”

“The last thing we want is to have to go back and change the law when we should get it right in the regs, but it always remains an option,” he told the Herald. “Part of it is a tight time frame, which I am sympathetic to. Part of it, too, is trying to get 100 percent of these correct and out of the gate at once, where there is no need for it. They can have further discussions down the road.”

Pot commission Chairman Steven Hoffman was unavailable for comment yesterday. A commission spokeswoman said, “We closed public comment last week, and the commission will now evaluate and review those comments prior to reconvening for public discussion and deliberation the week of Feb. 26.”

The commission’s draft regulations for licenses for businesses where consumers could buy and use weed on-site ignore state law requiring cities and towns to first seek voter approval of such establishments, according to Cusack.

“Unless you have a ballot question that passes, you cannot have on-site consumption,” Cusack said.

For proposed on-site consumption operations where weed use would be allowed alongside other uses, such as a movie theater, the draft regulations circumvent state law prohibiting persons under 21 from entering or working at marijuana establishments, Cusack contends, by stating the businesses could have separate areas that exclude that age group.

“(The law) is very clear that no one under 21 can work in these establishments and no one under 21 can even be in these establishments unless they have a pediatric medical (marijuana) card,” Cusack said.

Draft regulations allowing for delivery-only businesses also create a new license type that would allow entities without a retail weed location to deliver directly from a cultivator, marijuana product manufacturer or micro-business, whereas the Legislature favored retailers only having that option.

“They can do it legally by creating a new license, but they should be respectful of the intent of the Legislature and mindful of the public safety and public health aspects of this new model,” Cusack said. “It’s such a rushed process, that they don’t have basic answers as to how it would actually function. No one has been able to answer how the taxes would work.”

Cusack wants the commission to focus on “pressing” regulatory issues to ensure retail weed sales can start July 2018, transferring the state Department of Public Health’s medical marijuana program to its control and convening a mandated operating under the influence (of marijuana) commission that must issue a final report to the Legislature by next Jan. 1.