9 a.m. | Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation hosts an in-person event to share findings from a new research project outlining the top health care priorities for the incoming governor and legislative leaders. The Colonnade Hotel, Huntington Ballroom, 120 Huntington Avenue, Boston
9 a.m. | Attorney General Healey will deliver opening remarks at a conference her office is hosting called "Addressing Hate in School Sports" in partnership with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education at the TD Garden.
10 a.m. | Mass. Gaming Commission will review and potentially vote on the application for a sports betting license from Encore Boston Harbor in Everett. Agenda and Access Info
10 a.m. | Mass. Cannabis Control Commission meets for its usual December business meeting. Agenda and Access Info.
Noon | Gov. Baker appears on "Boston Public Radio" for the "Ask The Governor" program — WGBH-FM 89.7
2:30 p.m. | Gov. Baker joins First Lady Lauren Baker, Gov.-elect Maura Healey, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and Major General Gary Keefe for the annual Gold Star Families Tree dedication ceremony, hosted by Military Friends Foundation in Memorial Hall
I haven’t gotten very far in my Christmas shopping (hey, it’s not Dec. 23rd yet), but I’m remembering a Yankee swap gift I brought to a gathering that was a surprise hit: a pack of THC gummy edibles. I thought it would be a fun gag, and instead it turned out to be a hotly contested item.
Which is both my gift guide suggestion and my segue for a brief discourse on the surprise (albeit gradual) success of Massachusetts’ adult-use cannabis rollout. Massachusetts chose a careful approach: deliberate, over-regulated with a highly expensive barrier to entry. The earlier medical marijuana entrants had an advantage, for they also could grow and process their own supply, giving them a head start in the adult use market. Many towns were paranoid about letting a pot shop get a foothold, while cities such as Holyoke and Worcester welcomed cannabis entrepreneurs.
Fears of crime, the corruption of youth and the dismantling of civilization in a smoky haze seem to have been so far unfounded, and the Cannabis Control Commission’s go-slow approach is like the tortoise and the hare story. Massachusetts keeps plodding along, building a big industry, to wit:
• Tax revenue from cannabis sales were north of $225 million for the last fiscal year.
• There are 267 marijuana retailers with final licenses in the Commonwealth, according to the CCC’s website, along with 117 cultivators.
• 22 social equity applicants are in business as of July 2022. according to a CCC report.
To that final point, the goal of opening a new industry to communities and people disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs has largely been undermined by the financial realities of starting a cannabis business — it often has taken millions to navigate the system and build out a facility. A new law passed in the summer creates a Social Equity Trust Fund for grants and loans that should help further diversify the industry.
— Guaranteed income program in Chelsea is studied — and will start up again
When several thousand Chelsea residents received $400 per month on a debit card to spend as they like, what happened? The Globe’s Janelle Nanos reports that in short, recipients kept their jobs and ate better. Harvard researchers studied Chelsea’s guaranteed income program, which ran for 10 months during the peak of the pandemic, finding three-quarters of the money was spent at grocery stores, restaurants, wholesale clubs, markets, and convenience stores. Chelsea city manager Tom Ambrosino plans to begin a scaled down program for three months starting in January.
— First cadet program aims to diversify State Police
The policing reform law that Gov. Charlie Baker signed at the end of 2020 has yielded a cadet program with 47 participants, the State House News Service’s Colin Young reports. Of that cohort, 53% are people of color and 27% are women. The first class was picked from a pool of more than 200 applicants, and successful completion of the program creates a pathway to attend State Police Academy.
— Gov. Baker issues three more pardons
As he prepares to leave office next month, Gov. Charlie Baker issued three more pardons yesterday, following eight in October and seven in November, Shira Schoenberg of CommonWealth magazine reports. Baker hadn’t issued any pardons in his first seven years in office, and these, like most of the earlier ones, aren’t controversial, e.g., releasing someone from prison.
— Worcester reaches contract deal with new manager Batista
Newly appointed Worcester City Manager Eric Batista will receive a salary of $275,000 a year under a two-year contract that has been unanimously endorsed by the city council, Cyrus Moulton of the Telegram reports. Batista, who served as acting city manager for six months before the city abandoned plans for a nationwide search to give him the job permanently, will also receive five weeks’ paid vacation under the deal, which keeps him in the role until at least mid-2024.
— Gov. Baker, the judge-maker: some 240 appointments to the bench
Over his two terms, Gov. Baker has appointed almost 60% of Massachusetts’ 418 judges, including all seven on the SJC, leaving an indelible imprint on the state’s judicial system. Matt Stout of the Globe explores the governor’s track record — roughly 47 percent of his appointments were women and 18 percent were people of color — and Baker’s preference for picking prosecutors.
— Framingham leans into sustainability with ‘agrihood’ development
The bustling metropolis of Framingham, since officially becoming a city in 2017, appears to be leaning into its rural roots as the historic town incorporated in 1700 as Mayor Charlie Sisitsky, only the second mayor of Framingham, had two victories this week with the honoring of the City’s Sustainability Coordinator Shawn Luz by the Baker-Polito Administration and the announcement of a development plan in the city’s rural North Framingham neighborhood for a sustainable “agrihood” residential development — Baiting Brook Farm — that will accommodate agriculture, horses, cows and limited development, the MetroWest Daily News reports.
— Poll shows support for reinstating history exam
A new poll commissioned by the Pioneer Institute finds that 62 percent of Massachusetts voters say the state’s high school students should be required to pass a U.S. history test before graduating, Christian Wade reports via the Salem News. Bay State seniors already have to pass tests in English, math and science/technology but the poll underscores the public’s support for beefing up the amount of history and civics students are exposed to before they graduate.
— Heroux cries foul as Attleboro council hedges on special election date
Outgoing Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux is accusing the city council of playing political games as it schedules a special election to find his successor, the Sun-Chronicle’s George Rhodes reports. The council has circled Feb. 7 on its calendar but left the door open to delaying the vote by two weeks, a proposal that Heroux thinks is designed to boost Council President Jay DiLisio, one of three announced candidates, by extending his time as acting mayor after Heroux resigns on Jan. 3.
— Town clerk resignation, retaliation claim add to turmoil in Monterey
Monterey Town Clerk Terry Walker has resigned and is accusing other officials of retaliating against her after she filed a whistleblower lawsuit in September claiming on-the-job harassment and a hostile work environment. The Berkshire Eagle’s Heather Bellow reports the actions and accusations are just the latest in a decade’s worth of rancor inside the tiny town’s government.
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