Q&A with the chair of Massachusetts’ new cannabis board

BOSTON — Massachusetts’ newly-formed regulatory board for marijuana is scheduled to meet for the first time on Tuesday. The chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission, 64-year-old Lincoln resident and former business executive Steven Hoffman, sat down with The Associated Press shortly after his appointment to talk about the challenges the commission faces in meeting timetables set out in the law that legalized adult recreational marijuana use, and some of his own reasons for accepting the post.

Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Q: Given the setbacks and delays the state experienced with its medical marijuana program, is it reasonable for the public to be skeptical about meeting deadlines for implementing recreational marijuana?

A: We’re committed, we’re energized, we’re excited to get started. But until we start delivering and giving people confidence that we are going to deliver on time, I think all of that skepticism is appropriate.

Q: But there are no promises?

A: What I can promise is that we are going to work as hard as we possibly can. We’re going to do everything we possibly can. We’re going to get all the help we possibly can to meet those deadlines, but I would have no credibility if I said with 100 percent certainty we are going to do so.”

Q: What made you want to do this?

A: (Laughing) It’s just a stage of life. I’ve had a long and good career. I’ve worked hard but I’ve been very fortunate. I was officially retired, but that was my shorthand for, ‘I want to do something really different.’ I like a challenge, I’m an adrenaline junkie of sorts. I wasn’t looking for this job, I didn’t apply for this job but when (Treasurer Deb Goldberg) contacted me and asked if I was interested, the more we talked the more this fit all my criteria.

Q: Many cities and towns are reluctant to host marijuana establishments, even those in which voters approved the ballot question. How do you counter that reluctance?

A: I think they have a legitimate concern and I think it’s part of our responsibility to address those concerns, to help assuage those concerns. It might be ambitious to say we are going to sit down and talk to (every city and town) but we’re going to try. We have a voter initiative that was passed by a majority of the voters in Massachusetts and we will implement that law but I understand that people have concerns about it.

Q: Most financial institutions won’t lend to cannabis companies because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. How do you finance marijuana businesses without traditional forms of capital?

A: I don’t have the answer. I think it’s a critical question. We will talk to other states that have the same issues and see how they dealt with it. I don’t have an immediate answer for you other than I know it’s something we are going to have to work on. The other states have obviously had some success in creating financing for entrepreneurs in the industry, so we’ll figure it out.

Q: You recalled using marijuana in high school and college. But in general, isn’t marijuana more potent today?

A: Yes. I agree with that. Should there be limits on potency? I don’t know the answer to that but we will certainly get into that as part of our charter. Should there be very explicit packaging and labeling requirements? Absolutely. People have to know exactly what they’re taking.

Q: You and your wife visited a pot shop while on vacation in Colorado last summer. Tell me a little more about that experience.

A: You go to Colorado, you check out a pot store. And so we did. I mean, we did a lot of other things, it wasn’t the highlight of our trip (laughs), but we went there. There’s obvious and seemingly very good security. You have to sign in. You have to show identification. You have to sit in the reception area until someone is there to escort you in the store itself. Inside the store there are separate areas for different kinds of products. Everything was behind locked counters. I bought a T-shirt that has (on it) the chemical structure for THC.



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