Regulator talks cannabis safety, local cannabis market in presentation

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Regulator talks cannabis safety, local cannabis market in presentation
Kim Roy spoke at the Shrewsbury Senior Center earlier this month. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

SHREWSBURY – Cannabis Control Commissioner Kim Roy visited the Shrewsbury Senior Center earlier this month, meeting with the Shrewsbury Men’s Club in a special education and outreach event.

Roy previously worked in the Worcester County sheriff’s office before being appointed to her commissioner role last July.

She spoke with the Community Advocate following her presentation, detailing her goal to be a “community commissioner.”

That involves outreach, she said, reiterating her aim to spread awareness through events like this Shrewsbury Men’s Club appearance.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” she said. “So [I want to] let them know the facts, not the myths about driving impaired on cannabis.”

Emphasizing that she was speaking as an individual, Roy, in part, also discussed a desire to strengthen operating under the influence (OUI) laws in Massachusetts.

“If I had a magic wand, I would like to see the drugged driving laws updated in the commonwealth,” Roy said during her presentation, which took place on March 17.

Roy notes death of Trooper Thomas Clardy

It is illegal to drive while under the influence on cannabis in Massachusetts.

But convictions in cases involving cannabis and its key intoxicating component, THC, can be hard to come by, Roy noted.

Regulator talks cannabis safety, local cannabis market in presentation
Thomas Clardy was a Hudson resident and a state trooper who was killed in the line of duty in 2016.

That fact is underscored, Roy said, by the death of State Trooper and Hudson resident Thomas Clardy, who was killed in a crash on I-90 in Charlton in 2016.

Clardy’s death rocked Hudson and the broader law enforcement community.

David Njuguna, who drove the car that slammed into Clardy’s cruiser, was then found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and other charges in 2019.

A judge found him not guilty on a charge of involuntary manslaughter while operating under the influence, though, despite allegations from prosecutors, who said Njuguna had THC in his system at the time of the crash.

In explaining her decision, Judge Janet Kenton-Walker cited a lack of medical or scientific guidance on the role of THC in blood in determining whether an individual was high at the time of an incident.

‘We’re kind of falling asleep at the wheel’

There is no breathalyzer test for THC. Unlike alcohol, cannabis can also leave its markers in the bloodstream for days or weeks after use, long after an individual is no longer high, complicating blood test data.

Roy addressed this on March 17, noting that Gov. Charlie Baker had refiled legislation to strengthen Massachusetts’ laws against drug-impaired driving.

The legislature had since put the matter on a study order, though, effectively tabling it for the time being.

“We’re kind of falling asleep at the wheel when it comes to this,” Roy said. “God forbid there are more tragedies.”

Worcester County dominates state’s cannabis market

Roy noted a number of other matters on March 17, explaining her regulatory role on the Control Commission, while noting the current landscape of cannabis in Massachusetts.

“Worcester County is actually the mecca of cannabis operations for a number of reasons,” she said. “And Worcester is a mecca within the mecca.”

Comparatively cheap real estate is drawing cannabis business away from Boston, she said.

Accessible parking and developable properties sweeten the deal.

Nearly six years after the state’s voters opted to legalize marijuana via a ballot question in 2016, Roy said municipalities are recognizing cannabis as an “economic driver,” via job creation and new tax revenue, among other things.

“The ship sailed. It’s not coming back,” she said of legalization. “So, what do we do? We safely and securely regulate it. We control it. [And] we can also benefit from it.”

Regulator talks cannabis safety, local cannabis market in presentation
Commissioner Kim Roy guides a Shrewsbury Men’s Club member in a demonstration using special goggles that simulate the visual impacts of cannabis intoxication. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

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