BOSTON — The first day of policy debate among state marijuana regulators indicated that the Cannabis Control Commission is working toward industry regulations that would give consumers more options for how they obtain marijuana and where they will be able to use it.
The commission worked through policies Monday dealing with home delivery of marijuana products and social consumption of marijuana, among others. The policies, some of which were agreed to, will be enshrined into draft regulations for the newly legal industry, which the CCC plans to put on file with the state by the end of the month.
The commission spent about an hour Monday discussing how to address social consumption, essentially allowing adults to buy and use marijuana at the same location much like purchasing alcohol at a bar or a cigar at a cigar bar, an idea that the CCC’s advisory board suggested could reduce the risk of children getting a hold of the drug and may limit how much legal marijuana is illegally transported out of state by tourists.
“Particularly for people who may live with non-consuming roommates or family members who don’t want consumption taking place at home, people with children at home that don’t want to keep marijuana there, people who live in public housing, people who are staying in hotels, there is a public policy need for a legal space in which to consume marijuana rather than trying to find a discreet place which can encourage arrests and loitering and other issues,” Commissioner Shaleen Title said. “At the same time, any on-site consumption model should consider the best ways to encourage patrons to consume marijuana responsibly, not to take marijuana off the premises to avoid diversion and to get home safely.”
Title recommended that the CCC create three types of social consumption licenses: one for businesses that will derive at least 51 percent of their revenue from marijuana sales, one for “mixed use” facilities that could sell cannabis but not enough that cannabis sales would surpass 50 percent of revenue — examples included massage parlors that want to use THC-infused oils and yoga studios that want to allow participants to use marijuana — and a third for short-term event licenses for things like weddings.
Among the restrictions Title recommended for social consumption locations were a requirement that marijuana only be sold in individual servings, that there be a prohibition on alcohol being served and that no marijuana may leave the establishment. She also proposed that the CCC create a working group to make recommendations by July 1, 2018, about smoking indoors, air filtration requirements and how to protect employees from second-hand marijuana smoke.
The commission unanimously approved policies to allow for primary-use and mixed-use social consumption licenses, but deferred further discussion and a vote on special event licenses until later in the week so the commission could model its oversight of those licenses on how the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission handles single-day liquor licenses. The CCC did not approve allowing patrons of mixed-use social consumption establishments to bring their own cannabis, but Title asked that they also return to that issue later this week.
For marijuana users who would rather consume in the comfort of their own home, the CCC on Monday discussed ways to get marijuana between the cultivator and the consumer.
Commissioner Kay Doyle recommended that the CCC’s regulations allow, in addition to standard retail licenses, for a delivery-only retail license category, which would allow a person or company to deliver marijuana in accordance with all the requirements of a retail establishment but without the requirement of having a physical location.
“I think this gives some business opportunities to those who do not want the expense associated with opening up a retail store type model, but allows them the opportunity instead to deliver in full compliance and with accordance with what I am hoping will be strict protocols for delivery so maybe we will have less resistance on the municipal level to a retail license that does not involve dispensing out of a storefront,” Doyle, who previously worked with the state’s medical marijuana program, said.
State law already allows retail licensees to offer home delivery and the Department of Public Health has protocols for home delivery, including limits on the total value of marijuana in a delivery vehicle and a requirement that the delivery vehicle be tracked.
The CCC opted Monday to put off a vote on the acceptance of delivery-only retail licenses until they settle on operational and security protocols, a discussion of which was expected Tuesday or Wednesday.
Monday marked the beginning of what is expected to be a full week of policy debate among the CCC as the nascent agency lays out the rules for the newly legal marijuana industry in Massachusetts.
“Our objective this week is to agree on the policies that will drive our draft regulations. We will not be discussing the regulations themselves this week … we will be discussing the policies that will drive those regulations,” Chairman Steven Hoffman said. “In some cases, we have developed draft regulations that will be modified as necessary, and in other cases, we have not started the drafting process yet.”
The commission also pulled its executive director, Shawn Collins, into the policy debate on Monday.
“I want him to be a participant. He does not have a vote, but he does have two years-plus of studying the industry and researching the issues,” Hoffman said of Collins, who had been the Treasury’s point person on pot before joining the CCC.
Hoffman said the commissioners have not previously discussed the issues they expect to debate this week and said he will try to keep the public informed as to which topics the CCC expects to debate each day.
The schedule could change based on progress made early in the week, but the CCC has scheduled meetings each day this week to discuss its policies. Each meeting is slated to start at 10:30 a.m. and Hoffman said he expects the CCC to deliberate until 2:30 p.m. or 3 p.m. each day.
Next week, the CCC will have a meeting or two to discuss and vote on the draft regulations that will be developed based on the policy debates this week, Hoffman said.
After filing the draft regulations with the secretary of state by Dec. 29, the public will have most of January to read and scrutinize the draft rules. The CCC is planning to hold a series of public hearings on the draft across the state during the week of Feb. 5, with snow dates the following week.
The CCC is aiming to file its final regulations by March 9, ahead of the March 15 statutory deadline, Hoffman said.
The legal marijuana law passed by voters and significantly altered by the Legislature spells out at least 40 areas which the CCC is directed to address with “regulations, guidelines and protocols.”
Among the topics the CCC must cover are: the method and form of application for a marijuana license, a schedule of fees related to the application and licensing process, qualifications for licensure and minimum standards for employment, requirements for record keeping and tracking marijuana, minimum security and insurance standards, health and safety standards, and agricultural standards.