The race to get pot regs

One of the key components in legalizing marijuana for those who backed the referendum was to ensure equitable access to the market by disadvantaged communities, especially communities of color who have long been shown to be disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system for drug-related crimes.

When the Legislature passed its fix to the law last year, it was loud and clear that minorities be given every opportunity to benefit from the emerging market when the Cannabis Control Commission crafted its regulations.

So when Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, both vocal opponents of the 2016 referendum, admonished the commission this week to put the brakes on the rollout, many in the minority community saw it as another attempt to leave them out in the cold.

“The Legislature was clear and intentional in its mandate that we make this an equitable industry,” Shaleen Title, the only minority member of the five-person commission, told the Boston Globe. “Those provisions of the law are critical, and fulfilling them will require us to provide multiple opportunities for people from different backgrounds and with different financial means to participate in the industry and build wealth.”

Some members of the Cannabis Advisory Board went even further in their condemnation of Baker and Walsh, intimating the two were looking at the issue through a white-washed prism. They took umbrage at a letter from the Office of Administration and Finance suggesting the independent commission lay aside plans for pot cafes and delivery-only businesses until the retail market establishes itself. Those businesses would be among the least-expensive ventures for some people to invest in, unlike the megabucks operations of retail and cultivation.

“I think you have to be clear about what that letter was about,” said Horace Small, executive director of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods and a member of the Cannabis Advisory Board. “That letter was a reminder of who’s your daddy, OK? ‘We are your daddy, we control your money…’ that’s what that letter was about.”

The commission has taken great pains and spent a number of meetings focused on finding the sweet spot to allow minorities to reap the rewards of marijuana legalization, setting license fees at very reasonable levels and making policy statements that prior convictions for marijuana-related crimes would not exclude applicants from consideration for permits or from being hired in retail establishments.

Commission chairman Steven Hoffman, appointed by State Treasurer Deb Goldberg, has been deferential to elected officials, tacitly acknowledging the need to play nice with those who hold the purse strings. But Hoffman expressed confidence that not only can the commission get the regulations right, they can get them done on time to get hit the July 1 launch date for retail sales.

“I don’t remember us ever talking about whether we were going too far or not far enough or too fast,” Hoffman told Keller@Large last weekend. “We’re trying to do this right. We’re trying to honor the will of the voters by making this accessible but making sure we’re doing everything we possibly can to enhance public health and public safety.”

The commission is at the tail end of public hearings around the state on its draft regulations with the last one slated for Tuesday in Roxbury. There’s little doubt the commission will get push from both sides and the nascent board will be under tremendous pressure to follow through on the promises of diversity while at the same time hearing concerns about doing too much, too soon.

“It’s more important to do this right than on time, but right now we think we can do both,” said Hoffman.

JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

The focus of Gov. Charlie Baker’s commission on the future of transportation will be envisioning the future, not paying for it. (CommonWealth)

A Globe editorial calls on aspirants to the Senate presidency to outline openly their agenda and the leadership style they would follow if elected, and offers the observation about those who expressed early interest that many have been making in recent weeks — that “no candidate has seemed particularly prepossessing.” State Sen. Mark Montigny of New Bedford said he is “open to the idea” of pursuing the presidency, bringing to five the number of senators known to have their eye on the post. (State House News Service) Embattled former Senate president Stan Rosenberg rattles off a list of policy priorities he’s focused on in his new role as a rank-and-file member. (Boston Herald)

Preparing for the possibility that federal funding for women’s health care services will run out, Gov. Charlie Baker sets aside an equal amount of state money in a supplemental funding bill. (State House News)

If Amazon does decide to come to Massachusetts, Baker says special legislation would probably be required to meet the company’s needs. (State House News)

The state Supervisor of Records rules that the state must make available race and ethnicity data on 90,000 public employees, but the Baker administration and state comptroller are hesitant to comply, citing concerns about identity theft and personal safety. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A spending bill cleared the House just after 5 a.m. this morning and was signed by President Trump, ending a brief overnight government shutdown set in motion by Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who held the Senate floor last night to protest increased deficits in the GOP-led measure. (Washington Post) The deal includes increased funding for both military and domestic programs for the next two years, avoiding shutdowns for at least that period. (New York Times)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who visited hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico last month with Boston Red Sox President Sam Kennedy, said the island and its residents have been “abandoned” by the federal government. (Greater Boston)

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, brought in to calm the storms in the administration, has instead become the storm with tone-deaf statements about immigrants and defense of an aide accused of abusing two ex-wives. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

Philanthropist Barbara Lee objects to a previous CommonWealth Download item suggesting Ayanna Pressley is a long-shot to unseat US Rep. Michael Capuano. Lee calls Pressley a “breath of fresh air.” (CommonWealth)

US Rep. Seth Moulton is working to the up the representation of veterans in the House, backing 20 service veterans in races across the country. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Mass. Mutual LIfe Insurance Co. announced it will bring a new operation housing 1,000 workers to Boston’s Seaport. (Boston Globe)

President Trump’s administration makes it easier not to pay interns. (CommonWealth)

EDUCATION

Holy Cross education professor Jack Schneider says the state’s K-12 school rankings are “virtually worthless.” (CommonWealth)

The Pittsfield School Committee renames Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day. (Berkshire Eagle)

The former manager of the UMass Lowell recreation center pleads guilty to stealing $217,000. (Lowell Sun)

Howie Carr rails against the left-wing “hate speech” of Northeastern University professor Barry Bluestone, who said of President Trump in a recent lecture that he “wouldn’t mind seeing him dead.” (Boston Herald)

The Education Department is seeking to delay an Obama-era rule intended to reduce the disparity of race in special education. (Associated Press)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Nurses at Berkshire Medical Center say they will go on strike February 27 unless there is progress in their contract negotiations. (Berkshire Eagle)

Flu activity in Massachusetts reaches…a fever pitch. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA reported that the Red Line was experiencing “minor” delays last night — but they seemed pretty major based on reports from passengers of spending more than an hour on trains to go a few miles. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Eversource is launching a $5 million environmental cleanup of property next to the former Nstar power plant on New Bedford’s waterfront, considered one of the more valuable sites for development in the city. (Standard-Times)

Officials at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are recommending dramatically reducing the number of exemptions and amendments granted to owners of decommissioned plants, such as Pilgrim power plant in Plymouth. (Cape Cod Times)

What do you do with a solar array across from Beverly High School that has long passed its useful life and isn’t producing power anymore? That what a Salem News editorial is asking.

An appeal by the town of Weymouth of a wetlands permit for a controversial proposed gas compressor station on Fore River will move forward this summer, putting the project on hold until the appeal if completed. (Patriot Ledger)

A suit filed Thursday in Washington, D.C., by the Conservation Law Foundation says federal fishing regulators need to enact changes in lobster catch methods swiftly to save the endangered right whale. (Cape Cod Times)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

After a lengthy debate, the Salem City Council approves pot regulations that will permit four retail establishments in two areas of the city. (Salem News)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Federal agents and Boston police make what they say is the biggest drug bust in state history, seizing more than 33 pounds of deadly fentanyl and arresting 37 people. (Boston Herald)

MEDIA

Digital First Media has become the third bidder to put in an offer for the Boston Herald, the paper reports.

WBUR prepares to begin construction of CitySpace, a multimedia event site that the radio station plans to launch as soon as the end of this year. (Boston Globe)

Subscription revenue at the New York Times hits $1 billion, which represents 60 percent of the company’s overall revenue. (New York Times)

PASSINGS

Former talk radio host and one-time Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Janet Jeghelian died at age 83. (Boston Globe)

  • Mhmjjj2012

    I’m surprised CommonWealth didn’t offer some context on Northeastern University professor Barry Bluestone’s comment. WBUR’s article “Northeastern Professor Apologizes For Saying He ‘Wouldn’t Mind Seeing Trump Dead'” could have been cited in The Daily Download along with the Boston Herald but wasn’t. WBUR quoted bluestone’s apology and some other interesting points, “First of all I want to apologize, that was not what I meant to say…I was just at the end of a two-hour lecture…(the conservative news outlet) Campus Reform is where this first showed up. And they have been fairer and more honest in the coverage of this than anyone else…” So, it is possible to treat someone fairly and honestly even if you disagree with that person.

  • Mhmjjj2012

    The next Daily Download should feature WCVB5’s investigative report “MBTA may change how it sells property in response to 5 Investigates report.” It has all the elements CommonWealth seems to go for: MBTA, privatization, wasted money and of course…the Pioneer Institute. When the MBTA privatized its money room operation that left its money trucks as surplus assets and in the typical MBTA approach to solving a problem it auctioned those trucks off with no minimum bids so those trucks sold for pennies on the dollar. Why is it so difficult for the MBTA to do something…anything…the right way?