Ever since Massachusetts voters approved the legalization of recreational cannabis in 2016, state officials have been struggling to create regulations that will satisfy both cannabis advocates and the conservative prosecutors and politicians who oppose legalization. Last year, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a bill that made significant changes to the ballot measure, incorporating numerous restrictions at the request of anti-legalization groups and increasing the cannabis sales tax from 12% to 20%.
Late last year, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission unveiled a set of draft regulations to govern retail sales of cannabis, drawing criticism from both sides of the aisle. Now, as the March deadline for the final draft of the regulations draws near, Gov. Charlie Baker and the state's District Attorneys Association are both pressuring the CCC to hold off on several controversial elements of their new regulation – most notably, home delivery and cannabis cafes.
The draft regulations would allow the licensing of establishments where adults could buy single servings of pot and use it on site, and also allow cinemas, massage parlors, or yoga studios to provide limited ranges of cannabis products. The regulations would also allow delivery-only canna-businesses to apply for licenses, so that companies that do not have storefronts could deliver weed to adults. Several of the groups that fought against legalization in 2016 are now begging the CCC to back off on these controversial ideas.
Michael Morrissey, president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, wrote a letter to the CCC on behalf of his organization, urging them to delay these aspects of the regulations. "Immediately allowing marijuana in restaurants, coffee shops, theaters, spas, and yoga studios is irresponsible, ill-informed, and dangerous," Morrissey wrote, according to the Associated Press. "We have security concerns for these businesses, their employees and their customers. Moreover, these businesses heighten our concerns relative to such issues as operating under the influence, increased marijuana access by persons under the age of 21, theft and diversion to the black market."
The CCC also received letters from the Baker administration urging them to put these ideas to the side for now. Robert Ross, general counsel to the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, wrote that the commission should focus on "core marijuana establishments" before trying to regulate these other, untested aspects of the cannabis industry. Tori Kim, top attorney for the state's Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, asked the commission to focus on environmental regulations for new businesses before they considered expanding into these new areas.
CCC Chairman Steven Hoffman said that he expected criticism over the draft regulations, and hopes to still meet the deadlines so that legal cannabis sales can begin this summer. "I think the process is working exactly the way it should, which is that we put our draft regulations out, we're getting feedback and comments from elected officials, from industry groups, from advocacy groups, and we're going to go and meet in public again," Hoffman said to the Lowell Sun. "And we'll talk about the feedback and we'll try to make the best judgments we can about what modifications are needed to our draft regulations before they're finalized."