Pot board finds a home
New office to share floor – and more – with state Gaming Commission
SALT AND PEPPER. Hammer and nail. Bacon and eggs. Crimson and clover. Yin and yang. Pot and gambling. All things that apparently go together in many people’s minds.
The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission has finally landed some temporary office space and it is in the same building – actually, on the same floor – as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission at 101 Federal Street in Boston’s Financial District.
Cannabis commission chairman Steven Hoffman said the board is tentatively scheduled to move into its new space by the end of the week and while it’s on the same floor as the Gaming Commission, the offices will be separate. He said the Gaming Commission has “graciously” agreed to let the pot commissioners lease their conference space when it’s not in use as well as use the streaming equipment to livestream meetings – if they hire their own tech people to run it.
But it’s not just the proximity to usable space that will benefit the marijuana board. Hoffman said he has relied on Gaming Commission chairman Stephen Crosby to help guide the cannabis commission in creating an agency and an industry from scratch. Both boards are products of the Legislature’s moves to regulate previously illegal pursuits of the state’s residents, and the cannabis commission is basically a “cut and paste” version of the gaming commission.
Crosby said there’s no synergy or bonding going on between the agencies or their chairmen but rather a common experience in starting a state agency from the ground floor. Crosby said both were tasked with shaping their commissions while crafting regulations that never existed for new industries. He likened it to “building an airplane while flying it.”
“At the outset, they were facing a whole bunch of issues we had faced right from the get-go,” Crosby said. “It just became clear many of the issues they were going to have to deal with were the same issues we had already dealt with and we wanted to help them the way we were helped. These were institutional issues, structural issues, not content issues.”
Crosby said there’s no crossover between the two past-times, but he acknowledged there was concrete opposition to casino gambling among the voters the same way there is resistance to legalizing adult use of marijuana. He said transparency is the most important component in the process of crafting rules and regulations.
“We both had to figure out how you do this in a way that gets the public confident in the process,” he said. “Both of us are in an industry where a substantial number of people in the Commonwealth were opposed to it.”
Hoffman said the commission will rely on used furniture purchased from the building manager. He said the agency will initially occupy 2,600 square feet for the first three months, and then expand to 4,000 square feet during the remainder of the 15-month lease. The total rent for the lease will be $325,000. In the meantime, the state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance is expected to search for permanent space for the commission.
Having a larger space will allow the commission to not only begin hiring support staff in earnest, it will enable them to move quicker on the tight statutory deadlines for enacting regulations in order to get retail sales up and running by July 1, 2018. The commission has laid out an ambitious schedule over the next month to draft regulations and have them available for public review and comment by Christmas.
Currently, the five-member commission, the newly hired executive director, and the commission’s executive assistant operate out of seven cubicles in loaned space in the state’s Human Resources office in the McCormack Building at One Ashburton Place.
The cubbies are not the most auspicious setting for a state regulator overseeing an emerging billion-dollar pot industry that is expected to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues for the state and cities and towns.But the commission’s new offices won’t have the kind of amenities Hoffman, a former management consultant and partner at Bain & Co., is accustomed to, either. Hoffman was asked the biggest difference between where the commissioners hang their hats and coats now and where they’re headed to.
“Doors. And windows. And conference rooms,” he deadpanned. “This is a real office. We even have a little place to gather for lunch – although we can’t have lunch together because of the Open Meeting Law.”