Body cameras will accompany pot deliveries

Commission says drivers will wear devices; footage will be protected

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

THE STATE’S CANNABIS CONTROL COMMISSION on Tuesday approved home delivery of marijuana by drivers wearing body cameras and also backed the development of establishments where adults could use marijuana together in a social setting.

The commission addressed one of the more controversial parts of the new rules — the requirement that people delivering marijuana record the transactions on body cameras and retain that footage — with compromise language.

The requirement that drivers wear a body camera any time they are outside their delivery vehicle — which is also required to have cameras — and record all transactions caught significant flak at public hearings on the proposed regulations this summer and commissioners have wrestled to find a balance between public safety and individual privacy rights.

“We depend on a good relationship with law enforcement. Our regulations, particularly our security regulations, reflect this,” Commissioner Britte McBride said Tuesday.  “Here, we are faced with the challenge of balancing public safety concerns like robberies, which the use of body cameras are intended to deter, with individual privacy.”

McBride and Commissioner Shaleen Title worked together to draft the new language, which McBride said “does not constrain law enforcement from responding to obtain video in emergency situations while also responding to constituencies we heard from that are apprehensive about infringement on their privacy.”

Under the regulations approved Tuesday, body camera video of delivery transactions will be stored for at least 30 days and must be made available to law enforcement under certain circumstances. Licensees will be prohibited from sharing video with “any third party not explicitly authorized by these regulations to have access to that video footage except that a licensee … shall make video footage available to a law enforcement officer acting in his or her official capacity pursuant to a validly issued court order or search warrant demonstrating probable cause.”

Title said the compromise language strikes a balance between the concerns that police have about marijuana delivery — vehicles loaded with marijuana and up to $10,000 cash could be prime targets for robberies — and the worry that video of a state-legal transaction could be used against a consumer.

“There are very heavy security requirements for all of our businesses … there are certain special concerns when you are delivering to consumers at home so we talked about body cameras. There was some concern raised by law enforcement that because of the potential for robberies that we would need to have body cameras,” Title said. “What we decided is that if we are going to have body cameras, that footage is going to be protected … no one will be able to go in and fish through that footage, and consumers should know that about their privacy.”

Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman pointed out that the commission, based on conversations with law enforcement officials, has made “substantive changes” to its plan for home delivery and social consumption since it first contemplated authorizing those activities in 2017.  When it was putting its first set of regulations in place, for example, the commission initially included allowances for delivery and social consumption, but put those on hold as the governor and others said the agency was moving too quickly.

“We feel our feet are wet, it is the right thing to do,” Hoffman said. “We feel like we have a good balance between trying to meet the will of the voters but recognizing that there are concerns from a public health and public safety standpoint, so we feel very strongly that we’ve tried to find the right balance around those issues.”

The new recreational marijuana regulations were adopted with a handful of mostly minor changes by a 4-1 vote on Tuesday, with Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan casting the lone dissenting vote.

“I don’t oppose the regulations, I think it’s too early for social consumption and delivery,” Flanagan, a former state senator, said. “It’s not that I have anything against it. I think that in time it’s going to be appropriate to be in Massachusetts, but I think given, right now, two years after we began this agency, one year after we started licensing, it’s early to do that.”

The commission also approved a new set of regulations for the medical marijuana industry by a unanimous vote.

Though the new regulations were approved Tuesday and will be officially published by the secretary of state’s office in the coming weeks, Hoffman said it will take some time for the agency to develop an application for delivery licenses and to begin approving those licenses.

“I think delivery is still going to take a while,” he said. “But you’ll see more action sooner on delivery than you will on social consumption.”

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The new regulations authorize a pilot program for on-site consumption, but Hoffman said state lawmakers have to act before it can launch. Legislation to facilitate the pilot has been filed and is pending before the Committee on Cannabis Policy.

“It’s going to take a while for social consumption,” Hoffman said.