Key pro­vi­sions of new mar­i­juana law de­layed six months

Move angers back­ers of voter-ap­proved mea­sure

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY BOB SALSBERG

BOS­TON | The Mas­sachusetts Leg­is­la­ture ap­proved a six-month de­lay in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of sev­eral key pro­vi­sions of the state’s new recre­ational mar­i­juana law, an­ger­ing back­ers of the voter-ap­proved mea­sure.

The House and Se­nate passed the bill with­out a public hear­ing and with­out de­bate dur­ing lightly at­tended, in­for­mal ses­sions in both cham­bers Wed­nes­day.

The bal­lot ini­tia­tive ap­proved by 53.7 per­cent of vot­ers on Nov. 8 al­lows adults 21 and over to pos­sess and use lim­ited amounts of recre­ational mar­i­juana and to grow as many as a dozen pot plants in their homes took ef­fect on Dec. 15.

The ac­tion by law­mak­ers doesn’t change that. But what it’s almost cer­tain to do is push back the timetable for open­ing re­tail mar­i­juana stores from the be­gin­ning of 2018 un­til the mid­dle of that year.

For now, it re­mains il­le­gal in Mas­sachusetts to sell pot ex­cept to reg­is­tered med­i­cal mar­i­juana pa­tients.

“The Leg­is­la­ture has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to im­ple­ment the will of the vot­ers while also pro­tect­ing public health and public safety,” said Se­nate Pres­i­dent Stan Rosen­berg.

De­lay­ing key dead­lines by six months will give leg­is­la­tors more time to “im­prove” the cur­rent law by con­sid­er­ing is­sues that were not in­cluded in the bal­lot ques­tion, Mr. Rosen­berg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, both Democrats, said in a joint state­ment.

The group Yes on 4, which spon­sored the bal­lot mea­sure, said it was “very dis­ap­pointed” in the Leg­is­la­ture’s vote, not­ing it came with lit­tle ad­vance no­tice or public in­put.

While they would be will­ing to con­sider tech­ni­cal changes in the law, “our po­si­tion re­mains that the mea­sure was writ­ten with care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion re­gard­ing process and time­lines and that no ma­jor leg­isla­tive re­vi­sions are nec­es­sary,” the spon­sors said.

A spokes­woman for Re­pub­li­can Gov. Char­lie Baker, who strongly op­posed the bal­lot ques­tion, said Wed­nes­day he would re­view the bill be­fore de­cid­ing whether to sign it. Mr. Baker re­cently told re­porters he would re­spect the will of vot­ers but was open to de­lay­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion of the law for a “rea­son­able time pe­riod.”

Among the key dead­lines that would be put off six months in­clude the cur­rent March 1 dead­line for state Trea­surer Deb Gold­berg to ap­point a cannabis con­trol com­mis­sion to over­see the recre­ational mar­i­juana mar­ket; a Sept. 15 dead­line for the com­mis­sion to ap­prove de­tailed reg­u­la­tions; an Oct. 1 dead­line for ac­cept­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for re­tail mar­i­juana out­lets, and the Jan. 1, 2018, dead­line for li­cens­ing the first pot shops.

The bill passed Wed­nes­day also would re­quire the state Depart­ment of Public Health to com­mis­sion a de­tailed study of mar­i­juana us­age in Mas­sachusetts and the pos­si­ble im­pacts of the new law.

Sev­eral law­mak­ers, in­clud­ing Mr. Rosen­berg, have ex­pressed con­cern that the 3.75 per­cent state ex­cise tax cur­rently in the law would be too low to cover reg­u­la­tory and en­force­ment costs. Mr. Baker has sug­gested the pos­si­ble need for more lo­cal con­trol over pot shops and lim­its on the po­tency of ed­i­ble mar­i­juana prod­ucts.

Votes in Cal­i­for­nia, Maine and Ne­vada also ap­proved recre­ational mar­i­juana ini­tia­tives last month, join­ing Colorado, Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon and Alaska where it had pre­vi­ously been le­gal­ized.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Law­mak­ers must “im­ple­ment the will of the vot­ers while also pro­tect­ing public health and safety,” said Mas­sachusetts Se­nate Pres­i­dent Stan Rosen­berg.

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