Marijuana regulators in Massachusetts to move in with Gaming Commission

  • Regulatory boards will share office space in Boston
  • Legal pot industry will seek advice from gaming experts

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will share its Boston office space with the new Cannabis Control Commission while the latter continues its search for a permanent home, CCC Chairman Steven Hoffman confirmed this week.

Marijuana control may have found itself in its spiritual home in the Gaming Board office building.
Marijuana control may have found itself in its spiritual home in the Gaming Board office building in Boston.

The 15-month lease will put both regulatory bodies on the same floor of 101 Federal Street, an office block in the city’s Financial District.

Hoffman will look to Gaming Board chairman Stephen Crosby for advice on managing the fledgling industry. Casino gaming was only legalized in the state in 2011, and it faced fierce opposition before winning the confidence and support of the public.

Now the marijuana industry faces those same challenges, and the tentative support of the gambling regulator will go a long way to helping it get established – and developing a legal framework for it.

No “synergy” or crossover between industries

Though the two regulators will share an office, including meeting space which the CCC has been missing out on previously, there will be no collaboration between the marijuana and gaming industries – and no crossover of rules either. However, the Gaming Board will lend its experience to the cannabis regulators to help them lay down the rules for the industry.

“It just became clear many of the issues they were going to have to deal with were the same issues we had already dealt with and we wanted to help them the way we were helped,” said Crosby. “We both had to figure out how you do this in a way that gets the public confident in the process.”

Hoffman joked to reporters that 101 Federal Street could invite the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission to the building and form an office of “vice regulations” – but he agrees that the two regulators need to work separately and avoid merging the industries.

Though the CCC can use the gambling council’s meeting space, the Open Meeting Law prevents any collaborative gatherings by the two parties.

Both will share the office floor, but the marijuana board will keep looking for a more permanent home. For now though, the CCC is happy with its new offices. “We’re going to get used furniture. So it’s not going to be fancy but it will be functional,” said Hoffman. “We’re going to have doors and windows and conference rooms and a little place to gather for lunch.”

Can gaming and pot co-exist? Nevada isn’t so sure

While Massachusetts’ marijuana and gambling regulators are looking to benefit each other and share their expertise, blending the two industries has been less successful in Nevada. The state also offers legal gambling and legal marijuana.

However, the Nevada Gaming Commission has been very outspoken in rejecting any notion of casino interaction with pot sales, or with pot users. Despite legalization at state level, the Commission looks to federal law for advice on substance use in casinos and gaming areas.

“The commission can’t allow licensees to knowingly within their sidewalks knowingly break federal law,” said Commission Chairman Tony Alamo during an August board meeting. Despite this strong stance, the Commission has not moved to make their disapproval more formal “We’re not setting policy here,” Alamo said. “We are discussing and interpreting the law as it stands.”

Perhaps Massachusetts will have more luck in finding harmony between gaming and marijuana sales. Sharing an office – and similar challenges – might prove a bonding experience for the regulatory bodies. If there is room for interaction between gaming and pot retail, Boston could become the testing ground for a new kind of business relationship.

Casino industry gets a foothold in Massachusetts

While the CCC are looking to the Gambling Commission for advice, the board faces its own set of challenges in 2018. Two new casino resorts are scheduled to open in the state next year – the MGM Springfield and Wynn Boston Harbor.

Penn National has also acquired a license to open a slot game parlour. This will be the first real test of the gambling expansion laws which have opened the door for commercial casino gaming.

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