The new state agency charged with regulating marijuana in Massachusetts held its first formal meeting Tuesday, kicking off a process its officials hope will result in the first recreational dispensaries opening next July.
Attended by several dozen reporters, lobbyists, and activists, the half-hour meeting of the Cannabis Control Commission at a state office building on Beacon Hill was largely devoted to housekeeping matters.
Chairman Steve Hoffman, a veteran business executive, moved briskly through a series of agenda items, assigning 50 preliminary tasks to the agency’s four other commissioners and appointing himself as the interim executive director of the operation, as well. That move empowers him to rent office space, procure equipment, and hire the first of about 25 staffers, starting with a communications director to handle an influx of press inquiries.
“We need to get started today, and there are things we cannot do without an executive director,” Hoffman said, explaining he would remain in the position for as short a time as possible and disclose all his actions as executive director to satisfy the state’s open meeting and public records laws.
“Look, I’m not doing this because I want it, I’m doing this because I think it’s the right way to get this thing off the ground and start operating efficiently and immediately,” he said.
The commission faces a tight timeline to hire professional staff, promulgate rules for the burgeoning industry, and begin accepting license applications by spring. In the interim, the five commissioners are acting as their own staff.
“I have no problem doing my own research and doing work like that,” commissioner Jen Flanagan, a former state senator, said after the meeting. “But this is going to be a huge undertaking. To implement a whole new industry is going to be monumental.”
Hoffman said that once the commission’s responsibilities were organized on paper, he was “actually more optimistic than I was last week” about its ability to fulfill them on time.
However, he acknowledged that the commission will probably need “substantially more” funding than the $2 million currently allotted and expects to request additional money from the Legislature. So far, the state has released $500,000 to the commission.
In advance of the meeting, Hoffman met with advocates associated with the Marijuana Policy Project, which drafted and campaigned for the successful Question 4 ballot initiative that legalized the possession and sale of marijuana.
The group had initially criticized Hoffman and three other commissioners for voting against the referendum, but on Tuesday each side said their relationship was off to a productive start, with Hoffman calling the activists “reasonable people.”
“We do think he’s committed to getting this done on time,” Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Jim Borghesani said. “We’ve waited a long time for this day, to have a Cannabis Control Commission seated and meeting . . . It feels great.”
Hoffman also pledged to hold commission meetings across the state, so residents of various regions can attend and watch its progress.