Cannabis commission seeks $5.2 million to get pot sales underway

The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission has asked the state Legislature for $5.2 million to set up the licensing and regulation of the emerging recreational marijuana industry, officials said Tuesday.

If lawmakers approve the request, which the commission submitted to the Legislature late last week, the sum would be used to hire around 38 full-time staffers, rent office space, and buy software to issue licenses and track the growth and sale of marijuana plants and products.

Steven Hoffman, the chair of the cannabis commission, said the $5.2 million figure is based on a series of specific needs.


“There is no fluff in this budget,” Hoffman said at the commission’s public meeting Tuesday. “I did not pad these numbers in anticipation of them being negotiated down. This is what we need.”

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He added, “I’m confident that if the Legislature grants us our request, we will get the job done.”

A spokeswoman for state Senator Karen Spilka said the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which Spilka chairs, was reviewing the request.

“We remain committed to providing adequate funding to allow the commission to carry out its mission to get this new industry up and running on schedule,” Spilka said in a statement.

A spokesman for House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said his budget planners would consider the request.


The money is intended to last the agency through the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Recreational pot sales are scheduled to begin on July 1.

Eventually, the commission is expected to fund itself through fees on licensees and taxes on marijuana sales, although the date on which it breaks even could vary significantly depending on how quickly cannabis businesses proliferate.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers appropriated $2.3 million to get the cannabis commission off the ground. Hoffman now estimates he can get the commission underway with an additional $5.2 million, or $7.5 million in total.

Formal legislative sessions are expected to end Nov. 15 and not resume until January. Marijuana advocates called on lawmakers to approve the cannabis commission’s request before the break.

“I’ve heard the governor, the House speaker, and the Senate president say numerous times that the commission will be given sufficient funds to get the industry up and running,” said Jim Borghesani, who managed communications for last year’s successful Question 4 ballot initiative that legalized cannabis in Massachusetts. “I hope they back up those declarations and approve the request at the full amount.”

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