BOSTON (SHNS) – Consumer privacy and public safety concerns collided Wednesday as a proposal to require that marijuana delivery drivers wear body cameras and record each delivery on video emerged as a flashpoint in the Cannabis Control Commission’s process of rewriting its industry rules.
For months, the CCC has been crafting new draft regulations for the medical marijuana world as well as the adult-use or recreational industry to tweak some things and, in some cases, expand what marijuana businesses are allowed to do.
Among the new allowances would be the ability for non-medical marijuana users to order the drug to be delivered to their home in largely the same way medical patients can already have the product delivered.
The CCC’s draft regulations would require delivery drivers to wear a body camera any time they are outside their delivery vehicle — which is also required to have cameras — and to record all transactions. The video of those transactions would be stored for at least 90 days and must be made available to the CCC or law enforcement if requested.
“The mission statement of the Cannabis Control Commission begins with the phrase, ‘the mission of the Cannabis Control Commission is to honor the will of the voters of Massachusetts.’ I fear that the commission has strayed from this goal by proposing the use of body cameras to record every home delivery,” Will Luzier, the campaign manager for the 2016 legalization ballot initiative, said.
Luzier said the 2016 ballot question, which was approved with about 52 percent of voters in support, included a line that said regulations for marijuana “shall not require a customer to provide a marijuana retailer with identifying information other than identification to determine the customer’s age and shall not require a marijuana retailer to acquire or record personal information about customers other than information typically required in a retail transaction.”
Though the Legislature rewrote the state’s marijuana laws before legal retail sales began, Luzier said it is clear to him that the will of the voters was to “protect the privacy of cannabis consumers.”
“The intrusion precipitated by a video recording of a person in their residence is a gross violation of their privacy,” he said. “It is only one step away from surveillance through devices known as telescreens — in other words two-way televisions — that George Orwell envisioned in his dystopian novel “1984.” The proposal to use body cameras for home delivery is contrary to the will of the voters and should be eliminated from the final regulations.”
Commissioner Shaleen Title argued against the body camera proposal in June when the commission voted 4-1 to include it in the draft regulations, saying the requirement would add costs to a service that patients already say is too expensive and medical dispensaries say is not profitable enough.
“To the extent that home delivery to patients has been ongoing there may already be security in place that goes above and beyond their regulations and to my knowledge there haven’t been incidents,” Title said. “That seems, to me, an argument that we should not be putting additional burdens and regulations.”
Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael spoke in support of the body camera requirement Wednesday, which he referred to as “the elephant in the room.”
“Marijuana establishments have robust security measures in place right now. There is video surveillance systems, there are limited access areas, identification procedures, and that would extend to delivery. I’m advocating for the deliveryperson’s safety,” the chief, who sits on the Cannabis Advisory Board, said. “Unfortunately, there is crime, violent crime, that’s been committed here in Massachusetts in the illicit side of the market. People have been hurt. People have been killed. There is no reason for us to believe that won’t extend beyond that market and into the legal market.”
Nichole Snow, the president and executive director of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, became emotional as she explained to the commission why some consumers might be fearful about being recorded buying marijuana and having that video available to law enforcement.
“This is a reminder that this is still a federally illegal substance and we don’t want to store video in places where the federal government can easily access that,” she said. “And I’m thinking about human capital in this.”
The CCC will hold a second public hearing on its draft regulations in Springfield on Thursday and at 5 p.m. Thursday will officially close the public comment period on the drafts.
CCC Chairman Steven Hoffman said Wednesday the commission will read every single comment it receives and will reconvene the second week of September to debate any changes commissioners feel are necessary and then vote to finalize the regulations.
“We started the process a few months ago to modify our original regulations that were promulgated in March of 2018, both to reflect the fact that we now have responsibility for the medical marijuana program and to reflect the fact that we’ve learned as we rolled out this industry and realized we needed to make some adjustments to our original regulations,” Hoffman said.