September 5, 2017

Question 4 opponents have majority on Cannabis Commission

Marijuana legalization opponents will outnumber supporters four to one on the new commission that will spearhead the state's efforts to get a legal marijuana industry up and running by next summer and then regulate the newly legal market.

Attorney General Maura Healey on Friday appointed Britte McBride, an attorney with experience working for the attorney general's office, the state Senate and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, to the newly-minted Cannabis Control Commission, and joined Gov. Charlie Baker and Treasurer Deborah Goldberg in agreeing on two picks to round out the five-person panel.

McBride, a Lynnfield resident, will join former state Sen. Jennifer Flanagan and former Bain and Company partner Steve Hoffman, who were previously announced this week, on the CCC. Like Hoffman and Flanagan, McBride voted against Question 4, the successful ballot initiative that legalized adult use of marijuana last year, according to Healey's office.

The three constitutional officers on Friday also agreed to appoint Kay Doyle, a former deputy general counsel to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and Shaleen Title, co-founder of cannabis recruiting firm THC Staffing Group, to the commission.

Title was a supporter of marijuana legalization and worked with the Yes on 4 Coalition to draft the initiative petition that nearly 1.8 million Massachusetts voters approved last November.

"I'm honored to be entrusted with implementing the will of the Commonwealth's voters in forming a new post-prohibition approach to regulating marijuana in (sic) way that will effectively protect public health and safety," Title said in a statement. "I'm especially eager to help Massachusetts set a good example for other states in creating a newly legal market that champions equity, including for communities that have been targeted by past criminalization policies."

Title is a founding board member of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, sits on the boards of the Family Law and Cannabis Alliance and Marijuana Majority, and serves as a trustee for Students for Sensible Drug Policy, officials said.

While working for the Department of Public Health, Doyle was the primary counsel to the Medical Use of Marijuana Program and previously had represented private and municipal clients in civil rights, land use and medical marijuana regulation matters as an attorney for Kopelman and Paige.

"I look forward to working with Chairman Hoffman and my fellow commissioners to implement safe and sensible regulations that protect the health and wellness of Massachusetts residents," Doyle said in a statement.

Doyle voted no on Question 4 last year because she had concerns about the initiative, the governor's office said.

As the commission came together over the past two weeks, the Yes on 4 Coalition behind the marijuana legalization effort has pushed for "balance" on the CCC and a guarantee that the panel will have the funding it needs to do its work and avoid further retail licensing delays.

"The concern is that the board does not represent the voters, at least numerically. We're looking at a 4-1 board -- four against Question 4, one for it -- whereas the electorate was 54 percent to 46 percent for Question 4," Jim Borghesani, spokesman for the Yes on 4 Coalition, said. "We take them at their word that they're going to move forward as quickly as possible."

Borghesani said legalization backers would be more comfortable with the CCC if the four commissioners who voted against legalization made "definitive statements" that their personal positions will "in no way influence their professional responsibilities."

"I think they owe that to the electorate, frankly," he said. "Again, 54 percent of voters voted for this and I think they should know that the Cannabis Control Commission, which they set up, is going to be very responsive to deadlines and to writing regulations that will fairly administer the industry."

Healey's individual pick for the CCC, McBride, previously worked as legal counsel to the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety within the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, deputy counsel to the Massachusetts Senate, and for seven years was an assistant attorney general under then-Attorney General Martha Coakley.

"Britte will bring vast experience to the Commission after spending more than a decade working at the intersection of law, regulatory policy, and public safety," Healey said in a statement. "Her knowledge and expertise in public policy, rule-writing, and government transparency will be an asset to the Commission and the state as this new industry is launched in Massachusetts."

In a statement, she said, "It is important that we do this right ... We have a lot of work ahead of us, and I am excited to get started."

McBride is a graduate of Holy Cross and Suffolk University Law School, according to Healey's office.

The commission will be under a tight schedule to get up and running and begin issuing regulations and setting up an application process to be able to begin licensing retail marijuana shops. The CCC is required to promulgate initial regulations on roughly three dozen topics by March 15, 2018, and then must begin accepting licenses for retail, cultivation and manufacturing facilities by April 1, 2018. After voting in December to delay many key aspects of the ballot law by six months, the Legislature's target date to begin licensing retail pot shops is June 1, 2018.

The Cannabis Control Commission, which was modeled after the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, has also been tasked with setting potency limits for edible marijuana products and packaging requirements that conform to health and safety standards set by the Legislature.

The CCC will also have to coordinate with the Department of Public Health to oversee a transfer of the state's medical marijuana program from the auspices of DPH to the oversight of the CCC. That transfer of responsibilities, personnel and funds is required to take place no later than Dec. 31, 2018.

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