Advisory board slams Legislature for ‘indifference’ in pot industry

Members of a cannabis oversight board slammed the Legislature for its  “indifference” to the burgeoning marijuana industry Thursday amid a turbulent landscape with the ongoing vape ban and federal probe into host community agreements.

“I am personally disappointed by what I perceive to be — this is the best word I can think of for it — the indifference of the Legislature to this new industry,” Cannabis Advisory Board member Andrea Cabral said. “It is shocking … There is not enough participation by the Legislature. To leave everything to the CCC is both unfair and unwieldy and I would like to see more interest and more participation.”

The Legislature should have more oversight in building the industry, argued Cabral, a former Suffolk County sheriff and public safety secretary. During a meeting of the Cannabis Advisory Board, which is charged with making regulation recommendations to the Cannabis Control Commission, Cabral said the industry will bring in “significant” tax revenue and is meant to give people opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have.

“I couldn’t agree with you more,” said Horace Small, executive director of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods. “Efforts have been, well, scattershot.”

Criticism from Cabral and Small, two of Attorney General Maura Healey’s appointees to the 25-member board, comes as lawmakers are being urged to act on the CCC’s request to be given authority over the controversial contracts between pot shops and municipalities, which are being investigated by U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling for corruption.

“Obviously there’s a renewed attention to that,” Executive Director Shawn Collins said. “But I think also renewed is the commission’s desire to do that.”

Lawmakers argue that the CCC already has the authority to regulate and enforce the agreements, but have filed a bill to clarify that language in state law. Collins said the legislation went before the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy in July, which has until February to make a determination. Committee Chairmen Rep. David Rogers and Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz did not respond to requests for comment.

Board member Dr. Alan Balsam, an expert in laboratory sciences and toxicology, raised concerns about the ongoing vape ban and commended Collins’ decision to exclude medical-use flower vaporizers from a quarantine on all marijuana vaping products implemented Tuesday.

Members had a brief but heated discussion over the types of vaping products that are implicated in a multistate outbreak of severe lung disease, an esoteric issue that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported has direct evidence of being vitamin E acetate.

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