Keller @ Large: Mass. Is 'A Few Weeks Away' From Opening Retail Pot Shops
BOSTON (CBS) -- Massachusetts is getting closer to opening retail marijuana shops. Chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission Steven Hoffman sat down with Jon Keller to discuss the state's progress.
The licenses for two marijuana testing labs have been approved. Hoffman said that means the state is "a few weeks away" from pot shops. "This was kind of the last piece of the puzzle. The state law requires that anything sold by a retailer has to be tested by an independent testing laboratory, licensed by our commission, we've now done that...The retailers that have final licenses have a few steps to take, which shouldn't take very long. So we are weeks away."
The requirement that anything sold must be tested in an independent lab was a step created to help ensure safety, Hoffman said.
"One of the objectives of the legislation, certainly one of our objectives is to minimize, if not eliminate the black market. It's going to be hard but I do feel that people are going to tend to come to the legalized market for a couple reasons. One is because it's legal and I think a lot of people don't want to break the law. Two is I do think that fact that people are going to know exactly what they are getting in terms of potency, in terms of chemical content is going to have value and so I really do hope that over time we'll see this litigation of the illicit market."
There are regulations against the industry's ability to advertise. Stores can have signs, but that's about it. According to Hoffman, information about the industry is still shared because the commission holds public meetings and has a public awareness campaign with the Department of Public Health. "We're communicating through various media about safety and about appropriate usage of the drug," he said.
Hoffman admitted he did not know exactly how police would address driving under the influence of weed. "We have a task force that has been in panel that actually reports to the legislature, not to us, and it's looking at driving under the influence and how to test for it and how to prevent it. So part of it is public awareness and public education but in terms of the actual test itself, right now there is no legally accepted test in the state for proving that you're under the influence of marijuana," Hoffman said, something he believes is an issue.
Keller also asked Hoffman what the state's real reasoning was behind legalizing marijuana. Of course, revenue generation. "I believe there were two other reasons, and again, I'm speculating, I wasn't part of the legislative process obviously. But I think revenue generation is certainly one. I think two is the recognition that this industry if you will, exists already...I think the third argument, or the third purpose, is what we were just talking about in terms of social equity. So in the legislation, there is a very large section that says that we have to ensure that those communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the previous marijuana laws are full participants in our industry. And I think that's an incredibly important objective of the law," Hoffman said.
He also complimented the commission's handling of such a complex issue and the fact that the individuals on the commission have different perspectives.
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