Business & Tech

Baker picks for pot advisory board include anti-pot police chief

Walpole Police chief John Carmichael Jr.
Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Walpole Police chief John Carmichael Jr.

Governor Charlie Baker on Friday appointed five people to the state’s Cannabis Advisory Board, a group of experts who will help regulators draw up detailed rules and policies for the forthcoming recreational marijuana industry.

Under revisions to last year’s marijuana ballot initiative that were passed by the state Legislature and signed by Baker in July, the governor was required to name an expert in minority business development and another in the “economic development of under-resourced communities,” plus three people to represent the interests of farmers, employers, and municipal law enforcement agencies, respectively.

Baker, who campaigned against the Question 4 ballot measure and reiterated his opposition even as he signed the bill last month, appeared to send a message with his choice for the law enforcement position: Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael Jr.


Carmichael is a vocal opponent of marijuana use. In 2012, just before Massachusetts voters backed the creation a regulated medical marijuana program, he told the Globe it would be “illogical” to think licensed medical dispensaries “will not be fronts for illegal distribution and money-laundering.”

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His public campaigning in uniform against Question 4 in 2016 prompted protests from the initiative’s backers, and after the ballot question passed with 1.8 million votes, he told the Walpole Times he was “heartbroken.”

In an interview Friday, however, Carmichael struck a more moderate tone. He walked back his criticism of medical marijuana in Massachusetts, saying his earlier comments were based on California’s loosely regulated medical industry. And he pledged to work with other board members in good faith to help implement the recreational pot law in Massachusetts.

“Now is the time for me to reserve my own personal opinions and focus on providing thoughtful, sound recommendations,” Carmichael said. “I’ll try to limit my role to what I know the most about, which is the public safety side of things. There’s a lot we can do to make sure we’re preventing youth access and diversion.”

Carmichael noted that he served as the police community’s liaison to the medical marijuana program during its rollout, and said he can share lessons learned during that process with regulators of the recreational market.


Attorney General Maura Healey and state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg have also appointed five members each to the advisory board, which includes another 10 members from various interest groups named in the law, such as medical marijuana patients.

The board’s 25 positions are unpaid and come with no real authority. Nonetheless, its members are expected to wield significant influence over how regulators implement the new law.

To represent minority businesses, Baker picked Kim Napoli, a labor and employment attorney who also cofounded the Hempest retail shop in Harvard Square. Napoli campaigned in favor of Question 4.

Mary Ann Pesce, a retired Gillette and Procter & Gamble executive who now advises startup companies and serves on the boards of several Boston-area institutions, was Baker’s choice to represent employers.

The governor also tapped Lydia Sisson, who cofounded Lowell’s “Mill City Grows” urban food production and sustainability initiative, to be the voice of agricultural interests, and longtime Urban League of Springfield leader Henry M. Thomas III to advocate for low-income communities.


Among the topics the law directs the advisory board to study are regulations on the labeling and serving sizes of marijuana edibles, consumer concerns, plant-tracking systems, market stability, and programs to encourage the participation of women, minorities, and veterans in the industry.

The advisory board will report to a new five-member Cannabis Control Commission that will directly regulate licensed marijuana businesses, including existing medical dispensaries.

Baker, Goldberg, and Healey are required to name those five paid commissioners by Sept. 1. The commissioners will then hire the fledgling agency’s executive director, who in turn will appoint enforcement officers, administrative staffers, and other state workers.

Baker missed by several days an Aug. 1 cutoff for appointing his advisory board members. The missed deadline is of little consequence — the board has no one to advise until September anyway — but pro-marijuana advocates are worried more such delays could result in the state missing the July 2018 target date for legal pot sales to begin.

Dan Adams can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Adams86.