Business & Tech

First member of state pot commission didn’t support legalization

Medical marijuana from a dispensary in Salem.
Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Medical marijuana from a dispensary in Salem.

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Governor Charlie Baker has appointed state Senator Jen Flanagan, a Leominster Democrat who opposed the legalization of marijuana, to the new state commission that will oversee the commercial pot industry in Massachusetts.

The Cannabis Control Commission, or CCC, will approve and regulate pot sellers and establish standards for marijuana products, security at cultivation facilities, and advertising limits.

Last year, Flanagan joined a bipartisan group of 119 state legislators in opposing Question 4, the ballot measure approved by voters that legalized marijuana commerce in Massachusetts. She signed onto a letter from the group that said, “Allowing the billion-dollar marijuana industry into Massachusetts to market highly potent edible products, particularly during an addiction crisis, is the wrong path for the state,” and told the Lowell Sun she was concerned about “unknowns and unanswered questions.”

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In a more recent post on her campaign website, Flanagan said there are “many moving parts to legalizing marijuana, and establishing firm regulations is crucial.”

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Baker’s pick drew immediate backlash from marijuana proponents, who noted that Baker earlier this month appointed Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael, a critic of marijuana use, to an advisory group that will guide the CCC’s policy-making efforts.

“As he did with Chief John Carmichael, the governor has placed a legalization opponent on a key regulatory committee,” said Jim Borghesani, who represents marijuana interests and managed communications for the ballot campaign. “We hope that Senator Flanagan will put her personal position aside in order to advance the will of Massachusetts voters.”

In a brief statement released by Baker’s office, Flanagan said she was “honored” to have been appointed and looks forward “to serving on the Commission as Massachusetts moves forward in responsibly regulating this new industry.”

Flanagan is a longtime State House presence, having served as a legislative aide beginning in the 1990s before being elected state representative in 2004. She won the state Senate seat in 2008. In the state Legislature, Flanagan has taken the lead on several drug-related issues, including pressing for mandatory verbal drug screenings for school children, with an eye toward stemming opioid abuse at an early stage.

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Among the revisions the Legislature made to the marijuana law this summer was a requirement that the governor’s appointee to the commission have a background in public health, mental health, substance use, or toxicology. Baker’s office said Flanagan was qualified because of her service on legislative committees focusing on public health, addiction, and professional licensure issues.

“Senator Flanagan has been a champion and important partner with us on bipartisan efforts to enact comprehensive legislation around substance use prevention, treatment and recovery,” Baker said in a statement. “Her experience and service will be invaluable . . . as [officials], educators, and public health and safety professionals work together to ensure the effective, responsible and safe implementation of the adult use of marijuana.”

Flanagan is the first of five commissioners who will be appointed to the CCC by Sept. 1; she is expected to resign from her state Senate seat Aug. 31.

Joshua Miller of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Dan Adams can be reached at daniel.adams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Adams86.