On Wednesday a Democratic state senator who challenged the ballot question that legalized recreational cannabis was named by Republican Governor Charlie Baker to the regulatory board that will monitor the marijuana industry in Massachusetts.
Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, of Leominster, is the first appointee to the five-member Cannabis Control Commission. She will serve as an associate commissioner starting on Sept. 1 after resigning from her Senate seat at the end of August.
In a statement released by Gov. Baker, praising Flanagan’s experience in the Legislature on issues entailing substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery as invaluable to the state’s goal of “effective, responsible and safe implantation of the adult use of marijuana.”
In 2016, Flanagan played a big role in creating a state law that offered a number of new approaches to cutting the deadly opioid addition disaster. She combated the marijuana initiative on the November ballot, expressing fears over unknown or unanswered questions about what legalization might mean to Massachusetts.
Baker also opposed the ballot question, which passed with the endorsement of nearly 1.8 residents, or 56 percent of voters statewide.
Earlier this month, a bill was signed that made changes to the voter-approved law gave Baker, Democratic state Treasurer Deb Goldberg and Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey each an opinion in assigning the Cannabis Control Commission. Goldberg is responsible for naming the individual who will chair the panel. The governor’s appointee was required to have previous experience in public health, substance abuse and mental health.
The commission will monitor both recreational and medical cannabis. It’s charged with screening and licensing applicants for retail pot shots that are anticipated to start opening in mid-2018.
“I look forward to serving on the commission as Massachusetts moves forward in responsibly regulating this new industry,” Flanagan reported in a statement.
Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for the group that spearheaded the drive to legalize recreational marijuana, mentioned he hoped Flanagan “would put her personal position aside to advance the will of Massachusetts voters.”
He added that Baker earlier appointed Walpole Police Chief John Charmichael Jr., an well known opponent of marijuana legalization, for an advisory board that will make recommendations to the regulatory commission.
Flanagan, considered a moderate Democrat, was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2004 and to the Senate four years after. Massachusetts is one of eight states where voters have legalized recreational cannabis use.