All Bans On Marijuana Business Will Require Approval By Local Voters
It seems busybody state lawmakers feel they just know better than the voters of Massachusetts. They weren’t able to stop themselves from meddling with the law as approved by voters, but after much wrangling in the Legislature, we finally have a compromise.
Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday signed the marijuana compromise bill sent to him last week by the Massachusetts Legislature, setting the stage for creation of the regulatory structure to oversee legal marijuana sales in the state.
‘We Thank The Governor’
“We thank the governor for signing the bill and we urge all of the executive and legislative officials involved in the new regulatory system to make timely appointments and ensure proper funding so legal sales can begin on the timetable set by lawmakers last December,” said Matthew Schweich, director of state campaigns for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and one of the leaders of the 2016 campaign.
This legislative outcome means that by January 2020, Massachusetts and Oregon will be the only two states in the country where all bans on adult-use marijuana businesses will require approval by local voters.
Appointments to the Cannabis Advisory Board are to be made by August 1, and appointments to the Cannabis Control Commission are to be made by September 1. The appointments are spread among the governor, the attorney general, and the treasurer.
Treasurer Deborah Goldberg earlier this year submitted a first-year Cannabis Control Commission budget of $10 million, which included a one-time $5.5 million expenditure for seed-to-sale and licensing software necessary to monitor product flow and applicant licensing. The current budget allocates $2 million for the Commission’s first year.
Goldberg has asked U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for guidance on federal marijuana enforcement, reports Shira Schoenberg at MassLive. In the run-up to last November’s victory at the polls for legalization, Goldberg offered her opinion that the tax included in Question 4 was “too low.”
‘No More Delays’
“We take elected officials at their word that there will be no more delays in implementation of the legal sales system,” said Jim Borghesani, spokesperson for the 2016 campaign and the subsequent advocacy effort to defend the law as approved by voters.
“The state will benefit greatly from the tax revenues and jobs created by the new industry, and we are confident lawmakers will secure appropriate funding to get the regulatory system up and running on the current timeline.”
House Wanted To Repeal And Replace Voter-Approved Law
After numerous public hearings by the Committee on Marijuana Policy, the House and Senate came out with separate, and very different, bills making changes to the law passed by voters in November. The House bill effectively repealed and replaced the law, dramatically altering the tax rate, local control, and the application and enforcement provisions.
The Senate bill took a far more moderate approach, making few changes to the November ballot law. After more than 1,000 telephone calls from Massachusetts voters and intense media pressure generated by the Yes On 4 Coalition and MPP, the final bill reflected the Senate’s approach more than the House’s.
Yes and No
The compromise bill’s most significant changes relate to local control and taxes. The legislation adjusts the local control policy, allowing local government officials in towns that voted “no” on the 2016 ballot initiative to ban marijuana businesses until December 2019.
For towns that voted “yes” in 2016, any bans must be placed on a local ballot for voters to approve. The maximum sales tax rate (which depends on whether towns adopt optional local taxes) will increase from 12 percent (as approved by voters) to 20 percent. Under the bill, the state tax will be 17 percent and the local option will be 3 percent.