Massachusetts to Allow Delivery of Recreational Weed

But authorities want to photograph buyers accepting those deliveries.

August 20, 2019

BOSTON—The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission has proposed regulating deliveries of recreational marijuana by requiring delivery men and women to wear body cameras, reports the Boston Globe.

If approved, the proposal would be part of a government-mandated security system that films customers accepting cannabis deliveries to their own homes and would allow law enforcement agencies to access the footage for any reason. It’s an idea that has many critics.

“Cannabis consumers have been targeted and monitored for decades,” said Joseph Gilmore, president of the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council. “To require body cameras on legal cannabis deliveries is an invasion of privacy and perpetuates the false notion that marijuana attracts criminal activity.”

Last week, the commission wrapped up a public comment period on draft regulations that would permit independent delivery companies to bring pot from brick-and-mortar marijuana stores to residential properties throughout Massachusetts, except in the various municipalities that have banned retail pot sales.

If the agency approves a plan for regulating cannabis deliveries in September, deliveries could start within months. However, eligible entrepreneurs—at first, only participants in the commission’s social equity and economic empowerment programs—could apply as delivery service providers.

All applicants will be required to go through a background check. Those selected would need to adhere to a long list of rules, including requirements that each delivery vehicle be staffed by two licensed workers and equipped with a GPS tracker, multiple cameras and permanently installed lockboxes for cash and marijuana.

Consumers, meanwhile, would not be eligible to place delivery orders until they first visit a marijuana store and present their IDs in person as part of a “pre-registration” process. Critics believe that the body cameras and other rules will scare off both entrepreneurs and consumers.

“At some point, expensive and onerous regulations like body cameras will threaten the viability of these businesses,” said Matt Allen, field director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. “And ultimately, if these businesses are too costly to operate, the illicit and gray markets will continue to thrive.”

Marijuana companies also object to the commission’s proposed restriction on deliveries to towns with retail pot bans, which some industry lawyers insist is illegal. “You’re basically creating cannabis deserts,” said David O’Brien, president of the Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association. “This notion that cannabis somehow doesn’t happen in communities with a ban on sales—that’s a joke. That’s where the illicit market is the strongest.”

Proponents of the stringent security rules say they are simply an extension of similar measures deployed in retail marijuana stores, which are tightly controlled facilities that must have security cameras and “limited access areas” where cash and cannabis are accessible only by certain employees.

They also argue that body cameras will help protect drivers from robberies and prevent the diversion of marijuana to minors or the illicit market. Delivery companies would be required to warn buyers in advance that each transaction will be filmed, and that filmed data will be saved for at least 90 days and be “accessible to the commission or law enforcement on request.” Critics say this practice could allow local and federal law enforcement to use the videos to identify marijuana consumers.

Along with the possibility of the data being hacked or leaked, they fear any sharing of the footage could result in immigrants being deported or losing their legal status, veterans losing federal benefits or ordinary workers losing their jobs, since employers under state law are still permitted to fire employees for using marijuana.

“In the veteran community specifically, privacy is always an issue,” said Stephen Mandile, an Iraq War veteran, marijuana activist, and Uxbridge selectman. “A lot of veterans have jobs as first responders, security, instructors, stuff like that. Everybody is wary of being on camera.”

But Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael, a member of the state’s Cannabis Advisory Board, disagrees. “Massachusetts has seen violence associated with marijuana [deliveries] on the illicit side, and the commission is obligated to acknowledge that risk and protect the people delivering it through preventative measures. The body cameras are just one way of doing that,” he said.

Massachusetts is not the first state to face this dilemma. Several other states, including California, Oregon and Nevada, currently allow deliveries, though their regulations and roles afforded to municipalities vary widely.