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New pot regulators can be a little more bold, says former Massachusetts commissioner

A box of joints branded as Dogwalkers are sold at Rise, a marijuana medical dispensary in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen

A former Massachusetts marijuana regulator said new people on the state's cannabis control commission can be a little more bold in the choices they make.

None of the original members on the state's first cannabis commission are still serving, including the chair, Steve Hoffman, whose abrupt departure became public this week.

Hoffman, the commission's first and only chair since recreational marijuana became legal in the state, resigned in late April with just a few months left in his term. Hoffman began chairing the commission in 2017, about a year before recreational pot became legal in the state.

Shaleen Title served as a commissioner until 2020, and now leads the Parabola Center, a think tank on drug policy. Title said she appreciated Hoffman's leadership addressing equity and justice.

Title also noted that when the commission first started, everything was characterized by fear of the unknown. Now she said new leadership should take a fresh look at the commission's regulations.

"For example, do we really need to have two drivers in the car for every delivery business? This is just an example of — if we have a fresh, updated perspective we might be less based in fear and more based in modern reality," she said.

Title said the commission should make it a priority to give help and guidance to cities and towns to make sure they have ordinances and bylaws that work.

"People understand what marijuana businesses look like," she said. "And I think municipalities are moving from their worst fears to how do they get what their citizens want."

Title said lower prices and more supply are needed to attract consumers from the illegal market.

Corrected: May 5, 2022 at 10:52 AM EDT
Due to a transcription error, an earlier version of this story contained an incorrect paraphrase.
Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
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