WORCESTER – If there’s one thing that Steven Hoffman, chairman of the state Cannabis Control Commission, wishes he could change about the state law that legalized adult-use marijuana, it would be to do what Illinois did in its legislation: divert some of the marijuana excise tax to a fund to help provide financing to small businesses and communities harmed by punitive drug laws, that need a boost.
“There is just no capital available for the people we’re trying to help,” he said in an interview with the Telegram & Gazette before speaking at a Worcester Economic Club dinner Tuesday at the Hogan Center at the College of the Holy Cross. The state, local communities, industry and banks need to come together to find a solution, he said.
Aside from a half a dozen issues the commission is wrestling with, including how to support greater participation in the capital-intensive industry by disproportionately harmed communities and small businesses, Hoffman said, “I feel good, very good about how we’ve gotten to where we are right now, but we have a lot of work to do.”
Worcester County is still the center of the state’s marijuana industry, with 46, or nearly one out of four, of the approved 196 licensed entities, as of Oct. 10.
Hoffman said another key issue was the four-month ban on sales of vaping products instituted by Gov. Charlie Baker on Sept. 24 after state health officials reported 10 probable or confirmed cases of lung illness related to e-cigarettes. Massachusetts reported its first vaping-related death Oct. 7.
“I actually think legalization has helped us address that because we can and have communicated with all of our licensees, make sure they’re aware of the ban and what it covers. We can monitor compliance,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is, nobody knows what’s going on.”