Marijuana Business Magazine January 2020

Marijuana Business Magazine | January 2020 10 Polling Public Opinion Massachusetts’ top cannabis regulator talks about the vape crisis and federal legalization By Omar Sacirbey S teve Hoffman voted against the 2016 referendum to legalize, tax and regulate recreational cannabis in Massachusetts, so when Gov. Charles Baker appointed the former Bain & Co. partner and Exchange Solutions C-suiter to chair the state’s Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), brows furrowed. Hoffman, a University of Chicago MBA, maintains he was never against legalization, just the way it was proposed in the referendum, and since being appointed, he has somewhat placated marijuana industry fears by managing the rollout of what many observers predict will be one of the nation’s leading cannabis markets. He’s also spoken up for the cannabis industry— including during the vaping crisis—asserting that, to his knowledge, no state-legal medical cannabis products in Massachusetts have been linked to vape-related illnesses. On the other hand, when a judge ruled that the CCC and not the Baker administration had authority over medical marijuana products, the agency allowed flower vaping products but quarantined vape oils. The CCC lifted the prohibition on all THC vape products Dec. 12, one day after state regulators lifted the nicotine vape ban. Other Hoffman critics lament the slow pace of store openings, extortive host community agreements and hitherto unmet promises of Massachusetts social equity provisions. Marijuana Business Magazine asked Hoffman about these and other issues. At a recent conference, you said Illinois’ recreational program borrowed extensively from Massachusetts’ program. What were some of the more important things that Illinois replicated from the Massachusetts program? The biggest takeaway I see from what Illinois did is with respect to diversity. If you look at the equity provisions of our legislation, you can see a lot of the similar intent (in Illinois’ legislation)—not just in terms of legalizing but legalizing in a way that allows people who have been harmed by previous marijuana enforcement to participate. We’re the only state until Illinois that had that explicit language in our legislation. A lot of places—in California, as an example—are doing some really good things, but it’s not part of the legislation; it’s happening on a county- by-county level in California. I don’t want to suggest Illinois copied our legislation, but they certainly had some of the same intentions. I think Illinois has done one thing better than we have, quite honestly, which is they understood that to realize those objectives they needed to help provide funding. And in Illinois’ legislation, they have diverted some of the equivalent of our excise tax into a fund to assist these people, and I give Illinois credit for understanding that’s a challenge. Five Questions | Steve Hoffman Steve Hoffman Courtesy Photo