Cannabis commission receives extra $3 million to oversee medical marijuana
State marijuana regulators this week received an additional $3 million to pay for their new responsibilities overseeing the state’s medical cannabis program.
Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday signed the supplemental budget for the Cannabis Control Commission, an allocation expected to last through the end of the fiscal year in June. The agency previously received $7.9 million, as requested, for the year.
The commission assumed control of the medical program, and 22 employees involved in its oversight, from the Department of Public Health on Dec. 23. State law required the program’s transfer by the end of 2018.
The $3 million will pay those employees’ salaries and benefits, as well as other expenses such as information technology, infrastructure, and operational services, a commission spokeswoman said.
The money will come from the state’s marijuana regulation fund, which includes collections of fees from medical dispensaries and patients.
The marijuana regulation fund is also made up of revenue from a 10.75 percent state excise tax on recreational cannabis sales. Those purchases also carry a 6.25 percent sales tax, which is directed to the state’s general fund, and up to a 3 percent local tax.
The fund, under state law, must be directed to specific uses. They include: the cannabis commission’s operations, public awareness campaigns, public and behavioral health, public safety, police training, restorative justice programs, jail diversion, workforce development, and efforts to make the state’s marijuana industry equitable and accessible for people affected by the war on drugs.
Since the medical program began in 2014, 47 dispensaries have opened throughout the state to serve 57,000 patients and 7,000 caregivers.
Patients haven’t experienced any disruptions as a result of the transfer of oversight, said Nichole Snow, executive director of the nonprofit Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance. Patients are satisfied that the state’s five medical dispensaries that have opened for recreational sales have allowed them to cut the line and have dedicated parking spots.
“Everything seems to be going smoothly so far,” Snow said, adding that patients now receive notices at dispensaries that their program has shifted to the commission. “The communication infrastructure has been updated. It’s just been phenomenal.”