Today's Letter to the CCC: Advertising and Access

The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission is accepting public comments relating to draft changes to Massachusetts’s adult use and medical use of cannabis regulations. (Copies of the filings are available for download at MassCannabisControl.com/Documents/.)


Have something to say? Submit your comments to the CCC at CannabisCommission@mass.gov before 5:00 pm on Friday, August 14, 2020. Read more about the draft regulations and public commentary period here, and check out the letter I wrote and submitted today below...

August 3, 2020

Cannabis Control Commission

Union Station 2 Washington Square Worcester, MA 01604

Dear Members of the Cannabis Control Commission:


Thank you for providing the platform and time today for members of the public to submit their testimony. My comments pertain to three issues of particular interest to me as a small business owner, as an advocate for equitable opportunity for those most harmed by the War on Drugs in the Massachusetts regulated cannabis industry, and as a medical marijuana patient.


In addition to serving as executive director of ELEVATE Northeast Events and Education, Inc., I run a marketing and business development agency, Beth Waterfall Creative. As a small business owner struggling financially and who had to pivot in unexpected ways in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I implore the Commission to loosen restrictions on marketing and advertising. In 2020 we’ve debunked the “entrance drug” theory that influenced the creation of these restrictive marketing and advertising regulations, and we have access to age demographics data to help licensed medical and adult-use businesses access -- at minimum -- the same advertising and marketing opportunities extended to beer, wine, and spirits manufacturers.


In 2020 there is no excuse to prohibit cannabis businesses from the branding, events, and customer marketing that the deadly alcohol industry enjoys freely. Marijuana businesses are not only trying to grow their businesses and create jobs and tax revenue in their communities, but we are also educating and breaking stigma through marketing. Whether it’s wearing a t-shirt to support our favorite craft cultivator or a yoga mat emblazoned with an edible manufacturer’s logo, these are the “normal” marketing activities that other legal businesses can indulge in to grow their business, but which cannabis licensees must avoid like a plague.


The current restrictive regulations relating to marketing for cannabis licensees are outdated and needlessly stifling small business growth while strengthening stigma and reinforcing the concept that marijuana business operators, their employees, patients and customers are seedy or dangerous to society. In 2020 cannabis is an “essential” business that can help rebuild our economy, not something that we in Massachusetts should hide while every other Boston billboard pushes Bud Light. We also have licensees losing thousands of dollars to marketing agencies who deliberately (or through ignorance) flout the regulations and leave it to the licensee to deal with the repercussions should enforcement occur – and leave compliance geeks like me with our head spinning.


Next, I also encourage the adoption of regulations that will allow licensed delivery operators to purchase their inventory at wholesale rates from our budding ecosystem of licensed cultivators, product manufacturers, craft cooperatives, and microbusinesses in Massachusetts. I further support treating our cannabis delivery licensees like other licensees, in that they should be allowed to reduce costs and increase operational efficiency by storing and managing their cannabis products in a warehouse overnight. They are delivering cannabis and cannabis products – not cyanide.


Wholesale and warehousing are just two of the ways we can treat cannabis delivery licensees like normal legal businesses in Massachusetts. Where I’d like to see these businesses receive exceptions is through an extension of the exclusivity period for Economic Empowerment and Social Equity delivery applicants from two years to five years. We are building this delivery rocket ship while it’s in orbit, and extending the priority period even by one year is hardly a blink of the eye in the decades-long history of harm from the War on Drugs and disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws on communities of color.


Finally, as a medical marijuana patient, I encourage the Commission to be proactively compassionate by permanently allowing patients to access their medical marijuana certification via telehealth appointments. It is a dangerous time for even the healthiest of us to be out in public, and there is no end to this pandemic in sight. Nor do we understand when the next pandemic will occur. That’s why I request compassion for patients, particularly those with medically documented mobility and mental health restrictions, and other conditions that put them at high risk of contracting COVID-19 or other illnesses while needlessly out in public, to be able to access their medical marijuana certification via initial and follow-up telehealth appointments. Telehealth is the very definition of safe access.


I thank the Commission and its staff for their ongoing efforts to ease access to medical marijuana. Eliminating annual registration fees for patients is wonderful progress. Next, I encourage the Commission to put patient access and affordability above RMD profits by supporting an expanded caregiver program that increases the number of patients allowed per caregiver and provides space for caregivers to cultivate their medicine. I was confused and disappointed to hear leaders and spokespeople with the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance today go against its stated mission, which includes ensuring “the social welfare of medical marijuana patients, doctors, caregivers, medical professionals, advocates, and the general public…,” not ensuring dispensary profits.


It appears from testimony delivered in today’s meeting that MPAA is more interested in blind allegiance to the dispensaries funding MPAA’s pockets than advocating for patient access and caregiver operations. More options for patients through an expanded caregiver program will put a dent in dispensary profits, of course. But I encourage the Commission to see MPAA’s attacks on caregivers and patients for what they are: efforts to drive profits to those paying MPAA’s paychecks.


Thank you for reviewing my comments and for your work to “safely, equitably, and effectively implement and administer the laws enabling access to medical and adult use marijuana in the Commonwealth.”


Respectfully,

Beth Waterfall

(Elizabeth Waterfall-McSweeney)

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