Ethan Miller/Getty Images/File 2017
The new state commission that will oversee the creation of the marijuana industry in Massachusetts is dominated by members who voted against the referendum that approved recreational use of the drug.
Three additional members of the Cannabis Control Commission were appointed by state officials Friday. Of the five commissioners, four voted against Question 4 in November.
Marijuana advocates said they are concerned that so many of the commissioners tasked with regulating the industry opposed the ballot initiative, which was approved by 54 percent of voters.
“It would be good to have a statement from the members that their personal positions will in no way influence their professional responsibilities,” said Jim Borghesani, who represents marijuana interests and managed communications for the pro-Question 4 campaign.
“We want to make sure anyone’s personal feelings won’t jeopardize the deadlines in front of them. There’s a lot of people in Massachusetts who want to get started in this industry and they’re looking for the application process to begin.”
Among the new commissioners who voted against Question 4 is Britte McBride, 39, a veteran public service lawyer, appointed Friday by Attorney General Maura Healey, and Kay Doyle, 47, a lawyerwho worked for the state Department of Public Health on the medical marijuana program. She was an appointment of Healey, Governor Charlie Baker, and state Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg.
Earlier in the week Goldberg appointed Steven Hoffman , 63, a veteran corporate executive, to be chairman of the cannabis commission, while Baker in August tapped former state Senator Jen Flanagan , 41, a Leominster Democrat, as his pick. Both of whom opposed marijuana legalization.
The fifth appointment is solidly promarijuana: Shaleen Title, 34, a lawyer who specializes in marijuana regulation and activist who helped draft Question 4.
The commission will operate as an independent agency that will approve and regulate sellers and establish standards for marijuana products, security at cultivation facilities, and advertising limits. It faces a spring 2018 deadline for setting up the licensing and approval process, with the first recreational marijuana shops set to open in July.
“If you go into these things with personal prejudices it’s hard to change one’s mind,” said Steven S. Epstein, a Georgetown lawyer, longtime legalization activist, and a founder of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition.
He said Title, the lone commissioner on record supporting marijuana use, is “going to have to educate the other four, if education is possible.”
Title cofounded THC Staffing Group, a cannabis industry recruiting firm, and has consulted on state and local marijuana policy around the country, including in the 2012 initiative that made Colorado the first state to legalize marijuana.
“I’m honored to be entrusted with implementing the will of the Commonwealth’s voters in forming a new post-prohibition approach to regulating marijuana in [a] way that will effectively protect public health and safety,” Title said.
McBride previously worked as a lawyer in several Massachusetts government positions, including as an assistant for seven years under then-attorney general Martha Coakley.
“It is important that we do this right,” McBride said in a statement. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, and I am excited to get started.”
Doyle voted no on Question 4 “because of concerns she had with the ballot initiative,” according to a spokeswoman for the treasurer’s office. Before advising the state’s medical marijuana program, Doyle represented private and municipal clients in civil rights, land use, and medical marijuana regulation matters.
In a statement, Doyle said she is looking forward to working “to implement safe and sensible regulations that protect the health and wellness of Massachusetts residents.”
None of the three new appointees could be reached for additional comment.
Borghesani said he is also concerned that with only $1.2 million on hand, the cannabis commission will not have enough money to get up and running. The software system regulators need for compliance and tracking the industry, he said, alone costs $5.5 million.
“We hope the Legislature and the governor see to it that they get the appropriate level of funding to move this legal system forward,” he said.
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