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The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission held its monthly public meeting virtually on Thursday, May 7. Here are some tidbits from the meeting:
♦ The commission clarified that marijuana operators and applicants in its “economic empowerment” program must retain majority ownership of their companies in order to continue receiving its benefits (which include expedited license processing and exclusive access to delivery licenses). The clarification came after the agency’s staff mistakenly notified program participants that the ownership threshold was actually 10 percent. Commissioners said that was a “misinterpretation” of the commission’s regulations, but acknowledged that several licensees have already relied on the erroneous guidance to sell off majority stakes in their companies. Now, commission lawyers will have to untangle the whole thing, possibly grandfathering in exceptions for companies that no longer meet the majority ownership requirement.
It’s unclear how the misstep, which prompted confusion and outrage among many empowerment applicants, happened. Interestingly, while Hoffman said he agreed that the intention of the regulations was to require majority ownership, he also argued the limit should be lowered to 10 percent, because doing so would give applicants more flexibility to attract financing.
The snafu is the second major bureaucratic misstep to impact the agency’s equity efforts; the agency previously had to delay the hiring of vendors to conduct training for participants in its social equity program after issuing the wrong type of request for bids. (On the bright side, the first cohort just graduated from the social equity program.)
♦ Commissioners Jen Flanagan and Shaleen Title continued to hammer license applicants for submitting crappy diversity and “positive impact” plans, a required submission that details how each cannabis firm will help communities hit hard by the war on drugs. Title in particular called out numerous companies for saying they would hire a 10 percent female workforce, making their licenses conditional on resubmitting a plan with a more “objectively reasonable” goal. (Editor’s note to affected applicants: If it helps, about 50 percent of humans are women.)
♦ The commission voted Thursday to move forward with recreational delivery licenses. Applications will be made available on May 28.
The permits, which for two years will be exclusively reserved for social equity and economic empowerment applicants, will be awarded using a new “pre-certification” process: Commission staffers will conduct preliminary background checks and application reviews for entrepreneurs seeking delivery licenses before they receive local approval from the municipality in which they hope to base their operations. The idea is that having an initial “these folks are alright by us” sign-off from the commission will give applicants more leverage in their discussions with local officials, neighbors, and investors. Municipal approval has been a major bottleneck for equity and empowerment applicants.
Speaking of delivery, colleague Felicia Gans reports that the team behind Boston-based booze delivery company Drizly is finally, officially moving into the cannabis space.
♦ The commission’s fancy new digs at Worcester’s Union Station apparently didn’t come cheap: the city is likely on the hook for about $300,000 in cost overruns related to the construction of the agency’s headquarters. (Ironically, agency staffers aren’t even using the space these days, as they work from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.)
♦ Thursday’s meeting was the last for Commissioner Kay Doyle, the first of the agency’s top five officials to leave since the commission was convened in September 2017. She’s headed over to Greenwich Biosciences, a California company that was the first to manufacture an FDA-approved cannabis drug, where she’ll serve as the US director of public policy. Check out the end of the commission’s meeting livestream to hear some poignant “goodbyes” (and check out Twitter to see Doyle’s shockingly cute new puppy). Happy trails commish!