Hoffman resigns as president of the Mass. Cannabis Control Commission

“Over the past four and a half years, the work of the commission has been sometimes difficult, often exhausting, but always rewarding,” Hoffman wrote. “The commission is now made up of newly appointed members, and they should pursue their own vision and take on the next generation of challenges.”

Hoffman added that he will continue to “root” for the agency and said he hopes the legislature will advance a package of reforms to the state’s cannabis laws approved by the state Senate. At the beginning of April.

Hoffman’s resignation took effect April 25, according to an email sent by the commission’s director of government affairs and policy to members of the state’s Cannabis Advisory Council and obtained by The Globe. It’s unclear why the agency didn’t announce the move sooner, but a spokeswoman acknowledged Hoffman’s departure in a statement Monday.

“Chairman Hoffman’s contributions over the past four and a half years have been integral to the growth and maturation of the commission and the legal cannabis industry in Massachusetts,” the commission spokeswoman wrote. , Tara Smith. “The agency thanks the president for his commitment to ensuring a safe, efficient, and accessible marketplace in our state.”

The other four inaugural commissioners – Kay Doyle, Britte McBride, Jen Flanagan and Shaleen Title – all left the agency early, either when their staggered terms expired or to take up private sector jobs.

Under state law, the chairman of the cannabis commission is appointed by state treasurer Deborah Goldberg, whose office thanked Hoffman for her service and said an advertisement for the position now vacant would be published this week. Two other agency seats are nominated by Governor Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey, respectively, while the other two are chosen by a majority vote of Baker, Healey and Goldberg.

In a statementBaker’s office thanked Hoffman and the commission for leading “a difficult process that resulted in a stable and successful regulatory structure for adult marijuana use.”

The commission first convened in September 2017, after lawmakers completed a rewrite of the previous year’s legalization ballot initiative. Since then, the agency has written (and rewritten) detailed regulations and hired dozens of staff and inspectors. Meanwhile, more than 200 recreational marijuana stores have opened in the state, with recreational sales now approaching $3 billion.

Hoffman’s appointment to chair the commission was initially met with strong skepticism from marijuana advocates and businesses. They pilloried his “no” vote on the 2016 ballot initiative and questioned the relevance of his experience in more traditional business contexts, such as the years he spent working for Mitt Romney at Bath & Co.

But those concerns were quickly proven to be unfounded. Hoffman began his tenure by telling reporters he had smoked a joint with his wife the year before while watching the 4th of July fireworks in Colorado, and thought marijuana wasn’t enough. harmful to justify its prohibition.

Hoffman has generally taken a pragmatic, pro-business approach to defending the newly legal cannabis industry, pushing for clearer regulations while supporting licensing of delivery and social consumer businesses and speaking out against excessive municipal fees charged to consumers. marijuana companies.

At the same time, he also surprised observers with his adamant adherence to the agency’s social justice mission. Citing decades of racially disproportionate arrests for marijuana, Hoffman voted to give applicants affected by the war on drugs exclusive access to certain types of licenses and repeatedly called on the legislature to grant those contractors part of the loot from the state pot tax.

At a memorable first agency meeting, he choked up saying that people previously convicted of certain drug crimes were “just trying to get their lives back” and should still be eligible to get back. ‘a licence.

“One of the great parts of the legislation that we are trying to activate . . . is that we can actually play a positive role in helping them,” Hoffman said in 2018. “We’re talking about past offenses that people have paid their debt to society for.

Allowing these people to work in the cannabis industry, he added at the time, “isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the imperative thing to do.”

And despite his business approach, Hoffman seemed to take a dim view of companies trying to circumvent state regulations, backing heavy fines against interstate cannabis conglomerates that had sought to control local small businesses through onerous loan and management contracts.

“Steve Hoffman has brought a sense of innovation, professionalism and fairness to our new industry,” David O’Brien, president of the Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association, said in a statement Monday. “His business acumen and passion for social justice helped make Massachusetts a model that other states are now following.”

Laury Lucien, a lawyer and cannabis consultant, praised Hoffman for her willingness to meet and speak candidly with activists and others in the space.

“I didn’t agree with everything he did, but I really respect that he was genuine and transparent and open to education,” Lucien said. “When he first arrived, looking at his background in business, I didn’t know if he would just look at the numbers . . . I was very surprised and happy that he actually embraced the business. social equity.

Looking ahead, Lucien said she hopes Goldberg appoints a new chairman with more specific experience in the cannabis industry.

“The first cohort of commissioners was a bit green,” she said. “Now we want someone who’s had to run a heavily regulated business from seed to sale and appreciates what entrepreneurs go through.”

Dan Adams can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Adams86.

Aurora J. William