Massachusetts House, Senate pass 6-month delay on recreational marijuana implementation

Getty ImagesFILE
Getty ImagesFILE

30 December, 2016

The opening date for MA adult-use cannabis stores will now go from January of 2018 to the summer of that year. That wouldn't change under the measure, which emerged Wednesday in the state Senate.

It will be illegal to sell up to an ounce of marijuana, but it will be legal to purchase it, creating a degree of legal confusion among users and state police.

"We're disappointed that a bill seeking to change a law passed by a solid margin of voters under the initiative petition process has been submitted in informal session with little notice to supporters", said Jim Borghesani, a leader in the marijuana legalization campaign.

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said the changes amount to a "short delay" that will allow lawmakers to make other changes.

The move by MA lawmakers to delay retail marijuana sales is in stark contrast to OR, where voters approved legalization in 2014 with an anticipated 2016 launch of retail sales.

Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg, a Democrat, cited public health and safety as reasons for the delay in retail sales.

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"Luckily, we are in a position where we can learn from the experiences of other states to implement the most responsible recreational marijuana law in the country", he said. The legislation passed today will extend each deadline by a period of six months allowing the legislature more time to improve the ballot question, take up issues not addressed by the ballot question, and allow the state more time to implement the will of the voters. Informal sessions permit no roll-call votes, meaning that none of the lawmakers present Wednesday are on the record with their objections or support.

According to a report in pressherald, the bill was passed without a public hearing and without debate during lightly attended session at the house.

"The arrogance and hubris lawmakers are showing toward voters is remarkable", Altieri said.

MA legislators were mostly not present during the busy holiday season.

Legislators said they had concerns the January 2018 date was too soon to set up the extensive state bureaucracy which would handle licensing, taxation and regulation. While people in MA can legally possess it, there's nowhere in state they can legally buy it.

Segerblom points to OR, where recreational marijuana sales, including early recreational sales at medical marijuana dispensaries, are projected to generate $43 million in tax revenue in 2016. And adjusting the voter-approved law flies in the face of democracy, they say. Under Segerblom's proposal, the temporary sales would be allowed at dispensaries until the Nevada Department of Taxation begins issuing recreational marijuana licences.

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