The commission now plans to unveil and discuss its rewritten rules during two meetings to be held the last week of June. Hoffman said the commission’s “expected timeline” is that it will discuss and vote on the draft regs in late June, immediately begin a public comment period, launch a series of public hearings on the draft regs and then vote to finalize the rules “right after Labor Day, maybe mid-September.”
Two things in particular held the commission back from having the revised industry regulations ready for Thursday’s meeting — the complexity of the policy issues that must now be boiled down into regulatory language and the fact that the commission isn’t yet at full staffing but is “operating at or above full capacity” as the agency tries to rewrite its regulations while still standing up a relatively new industry, Hoffman said.
The chairman said the issues of home delivery and social consumption, or a policy that would allow adults to use marijuana in some form in a social setting, are among those gumming up the works. The commission this month approved, on a 3-2 vote, a policy allowing for a social consumption pilot program in a limited number of communities.
The commission drafted regulations in 2018 to allow so-called social consumption but put the issue on the back burner after pushback from Gov. Charlie Baker. The governor this year has indicated he could support a pilot program.
“It’s not that there are debates yet to be had, it’s just the work of translating policy into regulations is very time consuming,” Hoffman said Thursday.
While the commission’s staff is working to translate the commission’s policy decisions into regulations, the same employees are also working to inspect and license marijuana establishments around the state.
“We need to get more people and more capability, and we’re doing that,” Hoffman said, adding that the commission is currently hiring inspectors, licensing staff and legal personnel. He added, “Right now we’re at 60, plus or minus, but the headcount plan originally had about 75 people so it’s not that we need more people than we thought we needed, we just need to find the time to hire them.”
Ahead of Thursday’s meeting, the commission had considered and approved 157 marijuana business license applications since it began that process last June. Another 263 applications have been submitted in full to the commission and are awaiting a completeness review or third-party responses, like information from the host community or the results of background checks, Executive Director Shawn Collins said Thursday.
Since the first two legal non-medical marijuana retail stores opened in November, the commission has authorized an additional 17 retail stores to open their doors. Cumulatively, the retailers have sold roughly $130 million worth of marijuana products. Hoffman said in December that he expected four to eight new retail stores coming online each month, but the commission has trailed that pace.