Massachusetts lawmakers delay, propose changes to recreational cannabis legislation

The implementation of recreational cannabis in Massachusetts may still be a ways off. Back in December, the legislature rushed through a bill that would delay implementation by at least six months (until July 2018). This week, the Massachusetts House and Senate created a new “Committee on Marijuana Policy” to rewrite the recreational marijuana laws that were passed by ballot initiative.

Because the ballot initiative (Question 4 aka the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act) was codified as statute and not an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution, lawmakers are free to make any changes to the act that they desire. Governor Charlie Baker has requested a comprehensive bill to be on his desk by June 2017.

Among the changes being considered by the Committee on Marijuana Policy are a reduction in the number of plants that can be grown at home from twelve to six, a 2-year ban on edibles, and an increase in the tax assessed on marijuana products.

Our Take: This seems like a contentious mess. Even though the ballot initiative passed convincingly, lawmakers seem determined to change the laws significantly. Other groups would rather repeal the law entirely. Implementation will likely be on hold as lawmakers go through the sausage making. Once changes are enacted, it will take a while to create the regulations, systems, and processes needed for implementation. We’d be surprised if they are fully ready to go on July 1st 2018.

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