Baker: CCC should focus on retail weed

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BOSTON — Draft regulations to govern the sale of marijuana fail to resolve some "thorny" issues about marijuana cafes and pot sales at cinemas, the Baker administration advised the Cannabis Control Commission.

The commission should think about delaying its regulation and licensing of pot cafes to focus on its statutory obligation to set up a retail marijuana market, the Baker administration suggested.

"As this new industry is established: simpler is better," Bob Ross, general counsel for the Office of Administration and Finance wrote to regulators in a letter dated Feb. 5.

Commending the commission on producing a draft regulatory regime in the "short period" since the CCC was established last September, Ross reminded the commission that it must begin issuing licenses June 1.

"Given the aggressive timeline and the special challenges of regulating these novel establishments, A&F recommends that the Commission consider delaying the licensing and regulation of social consumption establishments, mixed use social consumption establishments, and delivery-only retail establishments until such time as the regulatory framework for the core marijuana establishments is in place and operating successfully," Ross wrote. "At this time, the Commission's time and resources may be best spent on the initial licensing and oversight of the marijuana cultivators, retailers, transporters, researchers, and independent testing laboratories."

Marijuana is still considered an illicit drug under federal law and U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling has not ruled out pursuing criminal cases against state-regulated marijuana establishments.

Some proponents of pot cafes say on-premises consumption can help keep the intoxicant out of the hands of teens and avoid other ills, a member of the Cannabis Advisory Committee told the commission in December.

The draft regulations permit on-premises licenses, "mixed use" establishments where marijuana might be the secondary business, and marijuana delivery businesses.

Those additional business models "added to the inherent difficulty" of the commission's responsibility to govern the retail sale of the product, Ross wrote. Regulating marijuana cafes is not required by the state's marijuana law and no other state has approved facilities for on-site consumption of marijuana, Ross wrote, recommending the commission consider delaying its consideration of those activities.

The Boston Globe reported on Ross's comments in Wednesday's paper, and quoted a spokeswoman for the commission as saying, "It is encouraging that small farmers, businesses, and individuals along with large advocacy groups and government agencies across the state can be equally represented in this open dialogue."

The commission's chairman was enthusiastic about the draft regulations when they were first issued.

"I think that these could become final tomorrow," Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman said in December. "We have a process by which they're not going to become final until March 15, but they're so well done I'm just amazed at what we were able to accomplish in a very short period of time."

Marijuana cafes could conflict with smoking bans, mixed-use establishments appear to be able to employ people who are too young to purchase marijuana, and regulations on the amount of marijuana that can be sold at one time need clarity, Ross wrote. Gummies and other edibles offer people a way to consume marijuana without blazing it.

While the regulations limit customers to buying one ounce "at a time," they do not clarify how long the customer would need to wait between purchases, Ross wrote.

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