Privacy zealots and cannabis users, take note: the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) has drafted and voted on regulations for cannabis delivery and would require delivery drivers to wear body cameras at any time they are outside their delivery vehicle to record all transactions. Massachusetts has some of the strictest regulations on cannabis sales in the U.S. since the state legalized marijuana for adults 21 and over in 2016. The CCC members voted unanimously to approve the camera requirement on September 24.
Critics note that delivery vehicles are already required to have cameras per regulations. Law enforcement advocates argue that the regulation would protect delivery drivers from violence. Other states that allow for home delivery of cannabis have done so without any significant issues. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) agrees and takes the position that legal delivery workers are less likely to be the victims of crime or theft than those delivering black market marijuana.
Massachusetts has 26 dispensaries statewide — and those operations are swarming with customers standing in line for hours to purchase legal cannabis. The result? The black market product starts looking more and more appealing to would-be buyers who are tired of the hassle of obtaining legal marijuana.
The state’s recently approved camera requirement is slightly different than the draft regulation unveiled in July. The draft would have required transaction footage to be stored for at least 90 days and made available to the CCC or law enforcement upon request. The approved camera requirement is slightly different and states that footage would be destroyed after 30 days, and access is limited to those with a court order or search warrant — or a constitutionally valid search procedure, whatever that means. Time will tell if that clause serves as a loophole for broad access outside of the limitations.
Customer privacy is a concern to critics of the draft, and because cannabis is illegal federally, opponents worry, for instance, that recording an address of a cannabis recipient could compromise the customer’s privacy — and possibly their freedom. Privacy advocates criticized the camera requirement as an example of excessive regulation issued by a surveillance state.
The ACLU cautions that these additional required expenses needed for compliance will only result in a price increase that the customer will have to pay for. Shanel Lindsay, an attorney and the founder and president of Ardent Cannabis, told MassLive.com over the summer that, “Body cameras seem to be going above and beyond and treating this in a more restrictive way that leads to more costs for people to run a business.”
Social equity licensing opportunities in the cannabis industry has been gaining traction in states like Colorado, and Massachusetts is climbing on board as well. Massachusetts has set aside delivery licenses for Economic Empowerment and Social Equity applicants, as a way to compensate for licensing inequalities for business owners impacted by the war on drugs. Critics of the camera requirement say that these additional costs and the required technology are making equity even harder to attain.
Privacy concerns aside, one of the goals listed on the Equity Programs page on the CCC’s website aims to, ‘Reduce barriers to entry in the commercial cannabis industry’. Let’s not forget that banking in the cannabis industry is woefully inadequate, and the prohibitive (and climbing) up-front costs required just to be compliant to enter the marketplace already serve as a barrier to entry into the industry.