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It’s the old bait and switch scheme.

The latest version of a recreational marijuana legalization bill — changing what was approved by voters last year — is making some cannabis supporters in Massachusetts very unhappy. 

After the people of Massachusetts chose overwhelmingly to legalize recreational marijuana, lawmakers just couldn’t keep their dirty little control-freak paws off it. They “rewrote” the bill as part of what they claimed was an effort to “clarify the regulation” of the herb, reports Fox 25 Boston.

“The House bill repeals the will of the voters — literally,” said Jim Borghesani of the Yes On 4 campaign, reports Carl Stevens at WBZ NewsRadio. “They repeal what happened in November of 2016, and replace it with a bill that would be unworkable and that would likely result in significant delays.”

Borghesani decried “the out and out hostility toward the marijuana industry” he said is evident in the House bill. “It looks like they assume criminality of anyone who wants to enter the industry,” he said.

“There are onerous review processes,” Borghesani pointed out. “Even if you want to have your parking lot plowed, the plow driver would have to have a background check.”

Members of the Massachusetts Legislature had until June 30 to come up with a bill to amend the legalization measure approved by state voters last November. If there’s no compromise between the House and Senate, the version passed by voters last November would stand, according to Borghesani.

“The Senate respected the will of the voters by engaging in a transparent and collaborative process that yielded slight changes targeting municipal and legislative concerns,” Borghesani said. “The House bill doesn’t respect the will of the voters at all; in fact, it repeals the will of the voters.”

“That system could go into place tomorrow, with appointments to the Cannabis Control Commission, and the regulation writing process could begin immediately,” Borghesani said.

The Senate version, according to Borghesani, is closer to the will of the voters. The Yes On 4 campaign, for that reason, is endorsing that version, he said. Leaders of the Yes On 4 campaign formally made their announcement on June 19 outside the Committee on Marijuana Policy meeting.

The sales tax rate on marijuana would max out at 12 percent in the Senate version released on June 16, but the House measure, released on June 19, allows the tax go go all the way to 28 percent. That, of course, is a thorny proposition to many cannabis consumers and supporters of legalization.

The House and Senate also both have to find compromise on what cities or towns should do if they want to outright ban the sale of marijuana in their community. The House bill lets a board of selectmen to ban cannabis sales from towns, while the Senate would leave that move up to voters.

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Rep. Mark Cusack:
“We’re there, about 80 percent of the way”
[CBS Boston]

“This is an issue that every member has an interest in and an opinion on, so I expect a lot of amendments,” said state Rep. Mark Cusack, reports CBS Boston. “I have no doubt that we can get to compromise.”

“We’re there, about 80 percent of the way,” Rep. Cusack said. “I’m hopeful that we can get there.”

House members in late June pulled the first version of the bill, due both to procedural errors and concerns over some elements of the legislation. The version which came out June 19 was their second.


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