CCC poised to release updated rules for marijuana industry

CCC poised to release updated rules for marijuana industry

A church in Wisconsin is handing out marijuana as a sacrament, a move that has angered city officials in Madison.

BOSTON — State marijuana regulators spent Tuesday hashing out final details of the new rules governing both the medical and non-medical marijuana sectors, and plan to reconvene Thursday to vote to accept the draft regulations.

The Cannabis Control Commission worked through five specific policy issues Tuesday -- ownership and control, home delivery of marijuana, public marijuana consumption at certain licensed establishments, suitability and the removal of product -- with the idea of releasing the draft regs at its meeting Thursday.

Those five issues were all that remained to be ironed out; the bulk of the regulations have been prepared by commissioners and CCC staff after holding public hearings and policy debates in recent months as the CCC endeavors to revise and republish the rules for marijuana in Massachusetts.

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"During the course of that process of embedding policy into regulations a couple of issues came up, either things we didn't get into in enough detail in our policy discussions ... or some issues where there was not clear or complete alignment among the commissioners," chairman Steven Hoffman said at the start of a CCC meeting Tuesday. He added, "I want to make it explicitly clear: we are not reconsidering the policy decisions we made in May. It is really about translating those policy decisions into language."

The most significant debate Tuesday came when commissioners discussed the regulations around home delivery of marijuana, which is already allowed for medical patients. Commissioner Shaleen Title argued against a proposal to require delivery-only retailers to have their drivers wear body cameras and record each delivery on video, saying the requirement would add costs to a service that patients already say is too expensive and medical dispensaries say is not profitable enough.

"To the extent that home delivery to patients has been ongoing there may already be security in place that goes above and beyond their regulations and to my knowledge there haven't been incidents," she said. "That seems, to me, an argument that we should not be putting additional burdens and regulations."

Other commissioners argued that just because there have not been significant issues with delivery of medical marijuana does not mean there won't be problems with delivery of non-medical marijuana. Commissioner Britte McBride said she was in favor of the requirement because the presence of a camera could serve as a deterrent.

"There are pieces we put into our regulations that are intended to deter bad actions and I think that we should appreciate the fact that it may be that it's largely working," she said.

Ultimately, Title's motion to eliminate the video requirement failed on a vote of 1-4. The CCC also voted to allow delivery of medical marijuana to certain locations where delivery of non-medical marijuana will be prohibited, including hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts or other commercial hospitality establishments.

The commission unanimously approved minor changes to its draft regulations around social consumption of marijuana. The CCC in May approved, on a 3-2 vote, a policy allowing for a social consumption pilot program in a limited number of communities and on Tuesday tweaked the proposed regulations to, among other things, no longer require management call the police if a customer at a social consumption site (which will be smoke-free if indoors) smokes a tobacco cigarette.

The commission had drafted regulations in 2018 to allow so-called social consumption but put the issue on the back burner after pushback from Gov. Charlie Baker. The governor this year indicated he could support a pilot program.

Around the issue of marijuana business control and ownership, the CCC on Tuesday shored up how its regulations will define control, a key issue for regulators to weigh amid reports about creative corporate tactics to bend state rules governing how many licenses any one entity can control.

Under the new regulations, anyone who holds more than 10 percent of the company's equity or can vote more than 10 percent of the company's shares, who earns more than 10 percent of the company's profits or dividends, or who can make key business decisions will be considered to have control.

A year since it began licensing marijuana businesses, the CCC has trained an eye on a smattering of requests for changes in control or ownership of the companies that make up the state's fledgling legal marijuana industry, including the recent approval of the sale of New England Treatment Access to Georgia-based Surterra Wellness.

CCC General Counsel Christine Baily said the regulatory language around ownership and control is "a particularly important area because it cuts across a number of different regulatory sections."

Because the CCC was able to complete its work on those five topics on Tuesday, the commission will not meet Wednesday but instead will reconvene Thursday to consider the complete package of draft regulations.

Hoffman said the commission's "expected timeline" is that it will discuss and vote on the draft regs at its meeting scheduled for Thursday, though that discussion will be "primarily on administerial changes," he said. The CCC will also begin a public comment period, launch a series of public hearings on the draft regs and then vote to finalize the rules "right after Labor Day, maybe mid-September," Hoffman has said previously.

When the CCC finalizes this rewrite of its regulations, the agency is not expected to leave its governing rules alone for very long. On Tuesday, commissioners agreed to defer consideration of marijuana event licenses to allow marijuana to be sold at special events until this fall.

Thursday's meeting of the CCC is scheduled for 10 a.m. in hearing room B-1 at the State House.

Read more Mass. Marijuana stories
Read more Mass. Marijuana stories