Pro-pot camp says Baker intimidating cannabis commission

  • Marijuana legalization supporters, including Sen. Jamie Eldridge, rallied outside the State House on Thursday to tell Gov. Charlie Baker to “back off” and let marijuana regulators do their work. shns photo

State House News Service
Thursday, February 15, 2018

Marijuana advocates want Gov. Charlie Baker and others who opposed legalization to “back off” and allow the independent cannabis regulatory body to move ahead with an industry that would include marijuana cafes, delivery-only businesses and other novel business types.

Many of the same groups and people who held rallies outside the State House during the 2016 campaign to legalize adult use of marijuana returned to that spot Thursday to fire back at the Baker administration’s “coordinated intimidation campaign” and counter what has been a 10-day shelling of the Cannabis Control Commission’s draft regulations by executive agencies under the governor’s control.

“This drip, drip, drip campaign attempts to undercut the independence of the Cannabis Control Commission by reverting to the prohibitionist rhetoric that should have ended when 1.8 million Massachusetts voters endorsed adult use of cannabis in November of 2016,” Marijuana Policy Project of Massachusetts Political Director Will Luzier said. “We think the Cannabis Control Commission can chew what they’ve bitten off.”

The CCC’s draft regulations have been under fire by Baker and others who say they believe regulators are jeopardizing plans for retail marijuana businesses by pursuing an overly ambitious industry rollout. Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and others have called on the CCC to scale back the industry envisioned in its draft regulations at least until an initial retail market takes hold.

“I think the experience coming out of both Colorado and Oregon has been that this is a very tough industry to regulate straight out of the gate and people should crawl before they walk and walk before they run,” Baker said Monday.

Shanel Lindsay, a cannabis entrepreneur and industry consultant who serves on the Cannabis Advisory Board, said Thursday that if the Baker administration’s guidance is followed the marijuana industry here will be less accessible to small businesses and people from communities disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition.

“From the moment this law was conceived, small business owners and local small business were a central focus,” she said. “But now in the 11th hour, we’re facing off against this last-ditch effort to scrap the only provisions that will provide ownership opportunity to our family and community members.”

Jim Borghesani, the spokesman for the local chapter of the Marijuana Policy Project, said a phased rollout of the CCC’s proposed license categories would “block small business individuals from coming into the industry at the beginning and the question is whether they will be able to get in once a lot of it has been established.”

Sen. Jamie Eldridge, a legalization supporter and frequent Baker critic, said the Legislature agreed last summer to changes to the voter law that would ensure that people in communities of color and people without large cash reserves could break into the legal marijuana industry, and that Baker’s concerns now are “absolutely contrary to the law” he signed.

“I’m extremely concerned that over the past few weeks Gov. Baker has used his different secretariat agencies to attack the Cannabis Control Commission and to suggest that somehow some of the more alternative ways to provide marijuana to those throughout Massachusetts are somehow not a good idea,” Eldridge said. “It’s important to emphasize that the law that Gov. Baker signed emphasized the need to provide economic opportunities through cannabis to communities of color and to those who are less well off.”

The governor has said that he is OK with the CCC licensing things like pot cafes and delivery services after an initial retail market has been launched and has said he does not want the launch of legal retail sales to be pushed back from its July 1 start date.