Goldberg prepping for possible role regulating marijuana

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BOSTON — Though Treasurer Deb Goldberg plans to vote against legalizing adult marijuana use in Massachusetts, she said Monday that her office has been taking steps to prepare for the potential regulation of the drug.

An initiative petition that would allow adults 21 and over to use marijuana recreationally also sets up a regulatory structure for it, creating a Cannabis Control Commission within the treasurer’s office.

Speaking at a summit of state agencies focused on digital strategy and innovation, Goldberg on Monday outlined the licensing and tracking systems her office is exploring in case voters approve marijuana legalization.

“This is not me taking a position of for or against,” Goldberg said. “All I know is I was put in the ballot question, and when I’m given a responsibility — I know that this one in particular is a large one, and if we don’t start looking at the dynamic and all that’s going to take place, we won’t be prepared should it pass in November.”

A spokeswoman later clarified that Goldberg personally opposes the legalization initiative and plans to vote against it.

A Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll released Sunday found 43 percent of respondents supported legalization and 45.8 percent were against it. Eleven percent of the 500 likely voters polled were undecided.

In April, a Western New England University Polling Institute survey found 57 percent of a 497-voter pool in favor marijuana legalization, with 35 percent opposed and 7 percent undecided.

“We believe that given the current polling, we in state government — and not just Treasury but all across state government — should really be thinking and planning for these systems,” Goldberg said.

The ballot question, backed by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, models its Cannabis Control Commission after the existing Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, a licensing agency within the treasurer’s office. Goldberg said she expects existing ABCC models, such as a new electronic licensing initiative, could be adapted to accommodate the marijuana industry if the question passes.

“Instead of licensing restaurants, liquor stores and brewers, for instance, a modified system would account for licensed marijuana retailers, growers, and manufacturers,” she said. “Thankfully, we will be able to learn from the ABCC’s experience.”

Goldberg said the potential Cannabis Control Commission would also require a “statewide tracking system” for marijuana across the various phases of the industry.

“Ultimately, this system would become the backbone of our tighter legalized structure, responsible for tracking movement of all plants from seed to sale,” Goldberg said. “Having a strong system is crucially important for a variety of reasons, the most significant being to assure the federal government — let’s not forget, since marijuana sale is illegal federally — that we are doing all we can to keep marijuana out of the hands of criminals and kids while also ensuring it remains within our borders.”

— Written by Katie Lannan

Copyright State House News Service