Advisory panel recommends approval of marijuana delivery, cafes
If a group of marijuana advocates gets their way, Massachusetts could one day host cannabis-enhanced pedicures, massages, and yoga classes.
Businesses currently can’t allow anyone to consume marijuana on their grounds. But an advisory panel on Wednesday voted to recommend that state regulators create licenses for both pot cafes and regular shops that want to provide a service or host an event involving cannabis.
The group also recommended that the state allow the home delivery of cannabis, though the panel’s members differed as to how to regulate it.
The 25-plus suggestions by the Cannabis Advisory Board’s public safety subcommittee — made up of law enforcement, industry advocates, and municipal lobbyists — will now head to the Cannabis Control Commission, which will consider whether, and how, to regulate both social consumption and home delivery.
The panel voted 5 to 2 to recommend that pot cafes be allowed. Julie Jacobson, with the Massachusetts Municipal Association, voted yes, but said they should be banned at the local level by default with interested cities and towns having to opt in. The two subcommittee members who voted against the recommendation were police representatives, who said such businesses could lead to a rise in stoned drivers.
“My thought process here is strictly public safety and protecting the victims that are out there right now that could be harmed, injured, or killed,” said Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael. But he acknowledged the “dilemma” posed to residents of public housing and tourists who don’t have a legal place to consume a legal substance.
Others argued that cannabis lounges already exist underground but aren’t regulated or taxed.
“We can’t act like just because we’re not talking about it, it’s not actually happening. Smart regulations here would help out the best,” said Kim Napoli, an attorney representing the industry and minority business interests.
The debate over home delivery of cannabis centered around who should be allowed to obtain licenses to sell and transport the drug. Carmichael and another law enforcement representative argued that drivers should be affiliated with brick-and-mortar retail stores so that regulators could more easily monitor whether companies were diverting marijuana to the illicit market or sold to kids. Police also said delivery drivers would be targets for robbers.
Others on the subcommittee argued that allowing delivery-only licenses would let minorities, women, and other commonly disenfranchised groups enter an otherwise capital-intensive industry.
In the end, the committee voted 4 to 3 against requiring delivery drivers to be employees of a store, with police and municipal representatives dissenting.
Among the panel’s other recommendations:
■ As it does with bars and people convicted of drunken driving, the state should track which companies served stoned drivers before their arrest.
■ Social consumption venue employees should be trained on how to recognize impairment to avoid overserving customers.
■ Venues should be required to report any illegal activity within a day to local police and state regulators. The state should clarify which crimes or regulatory violations would trigger a mandatory report.
■ State rules should mandate compliance checks to ensure businesses don’t serve underage patrons.
■ Organizers of events such as weddings or festivals should be allowed to apply for one-day licenses allowing them to serve marijuana to guests.