House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo floated the idea Monday of creating a state regulatory body to oversee retail marijuana that would be a combination of a treasurer-appointed commission and a fully independent board, perhaps akin to the one that regulates casino gambling.
The powerful leader’s comments came after he met with Governor Charlie Baker, Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, and state Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg.
Current law calls for a three-person Cannabis Control Commission appointed by the treasurer, with sole regulatory authority over the new industry. The treasurer’s office already houses the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, which was a main reason the authors of the pot law placed the marijuana watchdog under the treasurer’s authority.
But key members of the Legislature, which is rewriting the marijuana legalization law passed by voters, say an independent marijuana commission appointed by several officials is the best way to police the nascent pot business and insulate it from industry influence. They have floated the idea of modeling the pot oversight body on the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
The gambling board is composed of five people, not three. That brings a broader range of expertise and gives each individual less power. And they are appointed by different people: One commissioner is appointed by the governor, one by the attorney general, one by the treasurer, and two by a vote of those three elected officials.
But Goldberg has warned that creating a new oversight body could further delay when retail pot shops open — originally scheduled for January 2018, but deferred by lawmakers until July 2018.
DeLeo said Monday he thinks the Gaming Commission has worked well. But the Winthrop Democrat emphasized that the marijuana industry is unique: “It’s not like gaming, it’s not like alcohol, so therefore it should get its own process.”
Lawmakers expect to have a final bill by July 1. Deliberations are being watched closely by the multibillion dollar marijuana industry.
Adults growing, possessing, and using limited quantities of marijuana has been legal since Dec. 15 of last year. Massachusetts is one of eight states in which voters have legalized the drug.
Joshua Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.