After complaints, state agrees to staggered pot law rollout

BOSTON — Home delivery of marijuana and social consumption of marijuana products will not be part of the legal marijuana industry when it launches in Massachusetts this summer.

The Cannabis Control Commission acquiesced Monday to criticism from Gov. Charlie Baker's administration, the Legislature and others, and agreed to delay the launch of home delivery and social consumption until at least this fall, a move that addressed two of the most commonly-condemned parts of the agency's draft industry regulations.

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

The five-member commission early Monday afternoon voted 4-1 to launch a legal retail marijuana industry on July 1 without licensing delivery services or establishments where people could use marijuana socially, aspects of a new industry that were contemplated in the 2016 ballot law and authorized under the state's legal marijuana laws.

The commission also agreed Monday that, if or when it authorizes delivery and social consumption licenses, it will also grant the exclusive rights to those licenses to small businesses, businesses in the CCC's social equity program, craft cooperatives and certain farmers for a period of time in order to mitigate the effects of the delay in licensing.

"It was clear looking at the feedback that there was hesitance and lack of confidence in how the process will play out and I think it's important for our commission to develop relationships where people feel that they can trust us, they can look to us to be answering the questions and addressing the concerns that they have," Commissioner Shaleen Title, who proposed the compromise agreed to Monday, said after the meeting. "So if the delay allows us to do that without hurting marginalized communities, then I think everybody wins."

Within two weeks, the CCC is to come up with a plan for how it will study the issues of marijuana delivery and social comsumption and how it can prepare draft regulations on delivery and social consumption, with the goal of adopting those regulation in February 2019. Commissioner Kay Doyle was the only commissioner to vote against the plan.

Doyle said she had originally been in favor of allowing delivery because the Department of Public Health's medical marijuana program allows home delivery and has not run into significant problems, but she "failed to appreciate" the additional difficulties that would come with delivering recreational marijuana.

"I'm concerned about compliance and I don't feel like I have enough information at this point," Doyle said Monday. "I am not yet at a point where I feel comfortable saying that we have these problems solved, we have an answer or a solution for the compliance problem."

Under the terms of a compromise that originated with Title on Monday morning, the CCC would put off until Oct. 31 the decision of whether to license delivery services and social consumption establishments like pot cafes. The CCC would not allow delivery except for medical patients during the delay.

Once the CCC authorizes delivery and social consumption, the commission agreed Monday there would be a period during which delivery licenses would be available only to microbusinesses, co-ops, and applicants that are part of the commission's equity program designed to make the industry open to people from communities impacted by the war on drugs. Social consumption licenses would only be available to equity applicants and certain farmers during the exclusivity period.


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