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Top pot regulator supports law’s aims

  • Steven Hoffman, new chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission, speaks during his first public conference in Boston, Wednesday. BOSTON Globe VIA AP



Associated Press
Wednesday, September 06, 2017

BOSTON — The state’s top marijuana regulator pledged Wednesday to implement Massachusetts’ recreational pot law and do his best to meet an ambitious timetable for licensing and opening retail stores in the state, but acknowledged the task won’t be easy.

Steven Hoffman, a retired business executive making his first public comments since being named chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission, also explained during the news conference why he voted against the November ballot initiative that legalized adult use of recreational marijuana.

“I actually supported the objectives of the initiative,” said Hoffman. “My concern as a private citizen was I thought the timeline was pretty short to deal with some of the complexities and public safety issues involved in implementing the law, but I am a supporter of the objectives of the law.”

Three of the four other commissioners appointed by top state officials also voted no, prompting concern from legalization advocates that the panel might take a hostile approach to the cannabis industry or seek to delay implementation.

The Cannabis Control Commission is a new five-member panel that will oversee recreational and medical marijuana.

The Legislature delayed key deadlines in the voter-approved law by six months while it crafted revisions that included higher taxes on marijuana and stricter guidelines for labeling and packaging marijuana products.

The panel still faces a decidedly tight timetable for opening the first pot shops by mid-2018, and Hoffman on Wednesday could not entirely rule out possible further delays. He said commissioners would hold their first meeting on Tuesday and begin the process of hiring staff, with an eye toward people experienced in the legal marijuana industry.

Hoffman said he’s a realist when it comes to meeting the deadlines: “If the reality is it can’t be done then it can’t be done, but I don’t accept that right now.”

Hoffman, 64, said he used marijuana in high school and college, though rarely since. He did reveal, however, that in July 2016 he and his wife visited a pot shop in Colorado, where he purchased a T-shirt and a joint he later smoked. He was impressed by the security at the store and the “amazing variety” of products offered for sale, he recalled.

Backers of the marijuana law have called on the chairman to publicly request an increase in funding for the commission, arguing that the $2 million appropriated by the state for the current fiscal year falls far short of what’s needed to meet prescribed deadlines.

While saying the commission had enough money to get started, Hoffman appeared to acknowledge the concerns about funding.

“If the current financing is inadequate, which I suspect it will be, we’ll go to the Legislature, go through our plan and say, ‘here is what we need,’” he said.

Hoffman said he did not pursue the job but agreed to serve after being approached by state Treasurer Deb Goldberg. He has no prior experience in government or in the cannabis industry, but the former Bain and Co. executive touted his experience in developing successful business plans for startup companies.