Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steve Hoffman Encourages Lawmakers to Thwart Targeted Predatory Lending Practices by Passing a Social Equity Loan/Grant Fund, Agency Also Asks Lawmakers to Take Action on Impaired Driving and Social Consumption at Monthly Public Meeting
Commissioner Kimberly Roy Sponsored a Commission Policy Statement (final version above) on impaired driving at Thursday's meeting
By: Grant Smith Ellis
Thursday 20 Jan 2021 8:58PM ET
Thank you to my sponsors (who make this free content possible);
Other updates from Thursday's hearing;
In a somewhat contentious policy discussion surrounding impaired driving, that saw extensive back and forth between Commissioners and an exhaustive drafting process resulting in a seemingly ambiguous set of instructions to lawmakers, the CCC's newly created formal process for outreach to Beacon Hill was tested to its limits -- with potentially dangerous stakes at play on all sides.
One voice in the discussion, Commissioner Kimberly Roy (appointed to the Commission's public health seat by Governor Charlie Baker in July of 2021) has been making a push in recent months to encourage lawmakers -- and her fellow Commissioners -- to support policies that would increase penalties and enforcement against those driving impaired while under the influence of THC.
Pointing to statistics during Thursday's public meeting indicating an increase in fatal car crashes in 2021 as compared to the year 2020, along with research from local medical schools pointing to an uptick in impairment as a factor behind fatal car accidents, Commissioner Roy encouraged her colleagues to vote in support of a policy proposal that would have read as follows;
"The Commission supports legislation that aligns laws against the operation of motor vehicles while under the influence of alcohol with cannabis and other drugs. The Commission further recognizes the need to protect civil rights and for advances in technology to accurately assess cannabis impairment."
However, after feedback from fellow Commissioners Nurys Camargo and Ava Conception -- indicating their serious reservations with any enforcement mechanism related to impaired driving that did not take into consideration potential racial/gender disparities in that enforcement and that did not also take into account the current lack of technology of any kind to measure active impairment based on the presence of THC in the body -- Roy's initial proposal was amended.
As a result, the proposed policy position was updated to the following language (which passed by a vote of 5-0);
"The Commission supports legislation that strengthens laws against the operation of motor vehicles while under the influence of alcohol, cannabis and other drugs. The Commission further supports legislation that protects civil rights, racial justice, data collection on gender and race that ensures equitable enforcement of the law, and advances in-science-based technology needed to accurately assess cannabis impairment."
However, upon a closer examination of that syntax, the Commission's internal divisions on the issue become quite clear...a feeling only further exacerbated later on Thursday evening when Commissioner Ava Conception told reporters that, despite voting in favor of the policy proposal, she did not actually want lawmakers to move forward with an impaired driving bill this legislative session;
"My concerns are about getting it right, not about the time...so if this is something that takes beyond this session to really get some actual science behind it, to make sure we're getting the data provisions that are important, then so be it..." said Conception.
"The reality is the science is not there, we do not have it...so until we do, how can we act? How can we create a mechanism that is able to determine impairment levels without even having that available?" she asked.
Lawmakers on Beacon Hill will need to report on a number of impaired driving bills before the committee deadline of February 2nd, and this issue will be one watched closely as the legislative session progresses.
Three years after the agency initially approved regulations governing social consumption lounges, the CCC on Thursday approved a policy statement encouraging lawmakers to formalize a procedural change to state law that is needed before a small group of local cities and towns may opt-in to an existing Commission pilot program governing the long-delayed cannabis cafes.
A CCC overview of the history of social consumption, including the timeline which resulted in the need for a change in the law to allow local cities and towns to opt-in to the already existing social consumption pilot program under 935CMR500.141.