On February 21, 2018, I attended a Cannabis Control Commission meeting for the city of Boston hosted by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. The mission of the CCC is to honor the will of the voters of Massachusetts by safely, equitably, and effectively implementing and administering the laws enabling access to medical and adult use marijuana in the Commonwealth. The Commission will safely regulate an industry that will create entrepreneurial and employment opportunities and incremental tax revenues in and to communities across the state and which will be a best practice model for other states.
In the November 8, 2016 election, Massachusetts voters passed a ballot initiative (Question 4) making recreational marijuana legal in the state for people who are 21 and older. Provisions for home use and cultivation went into effect on December 15, 2016, allowing individuals to possess and purchase up to one ounce at a time. Each household can grow up to six plants, or twelve for those with more than one adult, and can store up to ten ounces. Like alcohol consumption, ingesting any form of marijuana (smoking, vaping, edibles, etc.) in public or on federal land is against the law.
The Commission established by Chapter 55 of the Acts of 2017 has five commissioners consisting of one appointee each from the Governor, Treasurer, and Attorney General, and two members agreed upon by the majority of those three constitutional officers. Those members are Chairman Steven J. Hoffman, Kay Doyle, Jennifer Flanagan, Britte McBride, and Shaleen Title. These appointees, along with other members, make up the Cannabis Advisory Board and oversee licensing regarding the cannabis industry as well as market participation, public safety and community mitigation, and public health.
The meeting I went to spent a large amount of time distributing licensing for recreational marijuana facilities. The Advisory Board announced that there were 2,733 applications for license with 292 under review. Out of the licenses under review, 110 were for retailers and 90 were for cultivators mainly in the Worcester area. The process for applying for a license is relatively easy and can be done on the CCC website. The five types of licenses available are retail, manufacturer, cultivator, craft marijuana cultivator cooperative, and independent testing laboratory licenses.
Understanding checks and balances within our democracy can be exemplified in committees such as the CCC in our local government. Committees are an essential part of the legislative process. Not only do they monitor on-going governmental operations, but they also identify issues suitable for legislative review, gather and evaluate information, and recommend courses of action to the government. At the local government level, most committees host public hearings where voting members of the Commonwealth can attend and voice their concerns.
When learning about democracy, we were introduced two definitions from Dahl and Schmitter. Dahl’s was more generalized, stating, “A platonic deal for political systems that are almost completely responsive to its citizens.” Within his definition, he mentions that his definition of democracy includes citizens running for office in free, fair, and frequent elections, freedom of expression, and inclusive citizenship. Schmitter’s definition focuses more on competition, stating that, “Rulers are held accountable by citizens acting through competition and cooperation.” His definition focuses around popular opposition that cannot impede the exercise of powers (efficiency) and undue constraint from overarching political systems (self-governance or independence). In the case of the CCC within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I believe it falls more into Dahl’s definition of democracy.
Not only does the CCC focus on distributing licenses and creating laws that will make the recreational marijuana an entrepreneurial business, it also spends a lot of time educating people on the laws surrounding the legalization of recreational marijuana. At the meeting I attended, an open forum was initiated where citizens could ask questions regarding the law, as well as the process of obtaining a store and purchasing marijuana legally.
I think this is extremely important because it allows the citizens to have their voice heard at a time of change. Massachusetts is one of ten states that have legalized recreational marijuana, and the CCC makes sure that the members of the Commonwealth are educated because it truly can be a business that can benefit the entire state. Currently, there are fifteen recreational marijuana dispensaries open in the state of Massachusetts with the CCC planning on slowly giving more licenses to businesses in the year to come. The meetings are held in the Downtown area and are held on average 3-4 times a month and are completely open to the public. It is a great way to gain more knowledge on the recreational marijuana business and the laws, as well as get a first-hand look at how local government operates.
Photo by Jesse Costa, WBUR.