On October 17th Burns and Levinson hosted its Sixth Annual Cannabis Industry Conference, where our very own Frank Segall sat down with Steven Hoffman to reflect on Steven’s time as the Chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission, his impact, and what his hopes are for the future of the industry.
Steven recalled his first few months as the Chairman as somewhat of a whirlwind. From being appointed on a Friday night and thrust into a press conference on Monday morning, he has been going nonstop ever since. Steven initially had the help of 5 commissioners, no office, no staff, no money, and very aggressive legal mandates to decipher. His plate was overflowing from day one. For the next 6 months, the commissioners held between 30-50 public meetings in order to discuss and draft regulations that would be broadly followed throughout Massachusetts.
Steven’s proudest moment as commissioner was the implementation of the Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund. This fund was put into place to encourage the participation of regulated marijuana for entrepreneurs who have been harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement. This fund is set to provide additional opportunities to those who may not be able to do so without support.
The Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund is ironically also one of Steven’s biggest disappointments. This fund took 4 years to become a reality and he wishes it could have happened sooner. He also believes that the fund needs to be larger. He would love to see the fund grow to at least fifty million dollars and hopes the fund will become self-serving. He has high hopes for the fund’s growth and foresees the private sector stepping up to help raise funds.
Although so much development and growth have certainly been seen under Steven’s leadership, he believes that there is room for improvement. Timelines need to be shorter for change of control reviews and there needs to be less ambiguity at renewal phases. Steven also mentioned his goal from day one was always to normalize the cannabis industry. Significant strides have been made and more and more people see the cannabis industry as a sophisticated entrepreneurial opportunity but there is still room for continued normalization among those not in the industry.
Frank and Steven also discussed the current state of the market. With oversaturation being a widespread issue in the cannabis space Frank asked Steven what should or could be done. Steven stated that they had anticipated oversaturation, but the number of licenses was intentionally not capped in Massachusetts to give smaller operators an opportunity to join the industry. The legislation was very clear that smaller operators would need to be included in the cannabis market and the initial license applications were larger entities. To allow smaller operators to receive licenses a limit was not put in place. In the long run mandates and equity, goals will be satisfied, and the competition will improve prices for consumers. The state of the industry seems to be a necessary growing pain that expands across more than just Massachusetts.
As for what’s next for the former Chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission…Steven is taking some time to recharge before pivoting to focus on the clinical support side of the cannabis industry.