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June 30, 2022

CCC executive director calls War on Drugs a policy failure

Photo | Alexander MacDougall Cannabis Control Commission Executive Director Shawn Collins

Shawn Collins, the executive director of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission called the long-running War on Drugs a failure and marijuana legalization efforts should focus on righting that wrong.

Collins made his remarks as part of a keynote address Wednesday during the Worcester Business Journal’s Business of Cannabis Forum, where dispensaries, growers, and state officials gathered at the DCU Center for Collins’ speech and, which featured panel discussions about the industry, which has been legal since 2016.

“If you’re in the process of legalizing cannabis, or reforming your cannabis laws, and inequity is not a central tenet of that effort, you’re doing it wrong,” Collins said. “Further, if while you’re legalizing you don’t acknowledge that the War on Drugs was an abject public policy failure that adversely affected Black and brown people, families, neighborhoods and communities, you’ve already done it wrong. The same is true for businesses.”

Those remarks were met with applause from the audience. 

Collins spoke of the need for greater diversity of the industry, and the CCC’s efforts to ensure that need is met. The Massachusetts State House is in the process of negotiating updates to the state’s cannabis law to allow greater resources for people of color entering the industry, as well as for areas in the state that were most affected by the War on Drugs. 

The event is the fourth such of its nature to be held by the journal, ever since the legalization of cannabis in the state in 2016. It gathers players from across the industry to offer the latest perspectives on the economic data, business opportunities, and making sense of the various laws and regulations that govern the drug, which remains illegal at the federal level.

Collins, a member of the CCC since its inception, delivered the keynote address discussing the organization, which was founded by the state to oversee cannabis regulation and is based out of Worcester’s Union Station, though it currently holds most meetings remotely since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During the keynote, Collins spoke of the CCC’s efforts to provide full transparency to both consumers and providers, not only through providing remote access to commission meetings, but also making available open data regarding sales and licensed business across Massachusetts. 

“Conducting our business openly and transparently is more than just streaming our meetings to the web,” said Collins. “It is the frequency of stakeholder engagement, down to the layout and navigation aspects of our website; 21st century government speaks to our digital presence as well, but also includes how we accept applications and correspond with applicants, licensees, patients, and others.” 

Following Collins’ speech were two separate panel discussions. The first was on the future of the cannabis industry and how the industry could serve as a vital economic engine for the communities that have embraced it, as legal sales have now surpassed $3.15 billion since the first dispensaries opened in 2018. The second panel discussed some of the ongoing issues cannabis businesses owners face, such as banking and financing for products and how ongoing inflation and supply chain issues affect the industry. 

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July 6, 2022
From what I hear from police in the field, cannabis is currently the drug most often associated with drug crime in Worcester. Perhaps the often cited but apparently not tested theory that legalizing drugs takes the criminal element away, is not true. The WBJ should investigate this.
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