Executive Director Shawn Collins
The newly appointed Cannabis Control Commission has had a busy month so far, with a seven-stop listening tour around the state, a more formal hearing at the State House on Oct. 2, several additional public meetings, and the hiring of an executive director.
The five-member CCC, established by the state’s recreational marijuana law and appointed in September, is charged with developing regulations to govern this new area of commerce.
The MMA offered testimony alongside the Massachusetts Municipal Lawyers Association at the commission’s Oct. 2 hearing. The MMA stressed the need for regulatory clarity surrounding the process for cities and towns where voters had approved Question 4 last November to ban recreational marijuana businesses if residents choose to do so.
In order to facilitate the development of municipal ordinances and bylaws, the MMLA urged the CCC to issue regulations pertaining to municipal governance as a separate package as soon as they are ready, rather than as part of a comprehensive set of regulations.
MMLA President Angela Atchue noted the difficulty that cities and towns face in crafting regulations before the commission completes its work.
“We are concerned about the section regarding the drafting of bylaws and ordinances that allow for siting marijuana operations, but impose reasonable regulations,” Atchue said. “Many of our members voiced that [doing] such would be difficult to achieve prior to the approval of the CCC’s regulations. As a result, several towns imposed moratoria on the siting of marijuana facilities (or the operation of commercial marijuana establishments) pending a review and planning process involving consideration of state regulations that may make the local regulation either redundant or in conflict with state law.”
She suggested that this led some municipalities to impose a moratorium extending to December 2018. If the CCC’s regulations are not issued until April 2018, municipalities that hold town meetings would not have time to adopt bylaws and lift the moratoria during next spring’s town meeting season.
The hearing also gave the MMA a chance to correct misconceptions about municipal bans and moratoria. As of Beacon press time, roughly 34 municipalities have opted to ban recreational marijuana businesses – representing approximately one-third of the one-third of Massachusetts cities and towns where Question 4 did not pass last November.
On the other hand, roughly 85 municipalities have enacted a moratorium – a temporary measure (as opposed to a permanent ban) that gives municipal leaders and planners sufficient time to understand and respond to the law. Many of these local moratoria, as Atchue indicated, were passed in response to legislative and regulatory uncertainty surrounding this issue and were set to expire by the end of 2018 at the latest. Many moratoria were passed to ensure that any forthcoming zoning or other regulations enacted by cities and towns would not be inconsistent with state law or regulations.
Under the law, the commission is charged with “promulgating regulations, guidelines and protocols necessary for the issuance of [recreational marijuana business] licenses” no later than March 15, 2018, and will begin accepting applications for state-issued licenses by April 1, 2018.
The CCC is now in the process of hiring staff and will soon submit a supplemental budget request to the Legislature, as it is currently operating on a budget that is only about one-fifth of the amount believed to be necessary.
On Oct. 18, the CCC named Shawn Collins as the agency’s executive director. Collins, currently assistant treasurer and director of policy and legislative affairs for Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, has long been the point person for marijuana policy on the treasurer’s staff and was expected to help lead the regulatory effort when the treasurer’s office had such authority in the original version of the law.
In his new role, Collins is tasked with chairing the CAB as well as assisting in the agency’s hiring process.
The Cannabis Advisory Board, a 25-member panel established to advise the CCC, held its first meeting on Oct. 3. The board was briefed on the state’s open meeting law and discussed subcommittee assignments.
The MMA is represented on the CAB by Auburn Town Manager Julie Jacobson.