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Mass. Officials Go Against Voters, Delay Cannabis Shops from Opening

December 28, 2016
Balcony of the Old State House surrounded by modern skyscrapers (Boston, Massachusetts).
In a decision that goes against what 1.8 million voters expressed during last month’s general election, the Massachusetts House and Senate passed a bill Wednesday morning after an informal session that delays the opening date for recreational cannabis stores by half a year.

The opening date for Massachusetts adult-use cannabis stores will now go from January of 2018 to the summer of that year. Both chambers took under an hour to pass the bill.

People like Jim Borghesani, a leader of the Question 4 campaign to regulate and legalize adult-use cannabis, have said that the quicker cannabis stores open, the better. The state now exists in a legal gray area, with cannabis being legal to possess but illegal to sell.

“We are very disappointed that the Legislature has decided to alter Question 4 in an informal session with very little notice regarding proposed changes,” Borghesani told the Boston Globe.

He added that the group was “willing to consider technical changes to Question 4 so that the new law is implemented in a timely and responsible manner. However, our position remains that the measure was written with careful consideration regarding process and timelines and that no major legislative revisions are necessary.”

The seemingly informal session did not garner a lot of public notice, with just two senators present Wednesday morning: Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg and Republican Minority Leader Bruce Tarr. The passage of the substitute amendment took less than a minute.

Rosenberg was quoted by the Boston Globe saying to the nearly empty Senate chamber, “The substitute amendment has to do with a six-month delay in certain provisions of the bill.”

The decision to have the informal session is unfortunate for those who supported Question 4 in Massachusetts, as formal sessions for the two-year legislative cycle have already ended, and during informal sessions the objection of a single member can stop the legislative measure.

Unfortunately, none voiced one Wednesday, considering there were only a few members of the state present. Informal sessions permit no roll-call votes, meaning that none of the lawmakers present Wednesday are on the record with their objections or support.

State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg, who is the state’s top cannabis regulator, has been very vocal in urging a delay. She has said on numerous occasions that to create an effective new bureaucracy that can regulate and police adult-use cannabis sales requires more time than the ballot question originally gave her.

With that being said, the original text of Question 4 was quite aggressive in implementing adult-use cannabis, mainly enacting when people can start purchasing adult-use cannabis if they are 21 years or older. Originally, the law was designed to have dispensaries begin selling cannabis on or before Jan. 1, 2018—just one year after the bill was passed.

As we have seen in the industry already, getting a legal cannabis program up and running in a state can take some time, and not every state can be as fast and as smooth as Colorado was when it debuted its framework. The Rocky Mountain state was able to get its stores operating in 13 months because it already had a seed-to-sale regulatory system established with all of its medical dispensaries. Washington State required 18 months while Oregon took more than a year, and Alaska needed two years to do so.

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Gage Peake

Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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  • FlunkedAgain

    Given the uncertainty of the position of the Trump Justice Department, and the uncertainty of his State’s Rights campaign position, this may be a judicious decision. The Black Market already has a system in place, and it is Private Sector.

    Home grown will be a major source of the underground, and outdoor grows will be “confiscated” for the black market.

    The Left Coast is probably a better choice for retirees looking for over-the-counter medical marijuana.

  • Sensible advocate

    This kind of non-representative maneuvering, especially on this issue which united people from both parties, is why people have lost faith in their governmental system. What’s the point of voting for something if the politicians are just going to change it behind closed doors. If you need more time, you can still save faith of the people by explaining openly why you need more time.

    • Endrest

      Exactly! Because the two-party system has become unresponsive (and untrustworthy), its voter-based initiatives that will create policy that the people really want… like in Colorado. I urge voters in states to force their states’ legislatures to adopt similar voter-based legislation so they can craft laws their reps are unwilling to!

      Now, Colorado’s state reps want to remove that right so they can further tighten down their lame, status quo-based policy.

      It’s getting time to fight harder than ever before, especially with this wild card taking over…

      • Sensible advocate

        its funny. it was just revealed that only 8% of the political donations to utah legislators came from utah citizens. the rest was from special interest groups. These same legislators passed laws to make ballot initiatives almost impossible.

        • Endrest

          I’m not surprised in the least. For once, and that’s not gonna happen for a long time, I feel, I’d like to hear some good news.

          Not gonna happen until our congress critters start acting like humans, again. They sold out long before you and I were born…and I’m sure they’ve had, and always will have, some sort of twisted justification behind their wholly-inhumane acts.

    • massvocals

      NO there are progressive and prohibitionist in the house and sen , its up to us to remove them at once

  • Poet&Surfer

    Politicians are clueless. Nevertheless, the awareness will be higher than ever. The movement is stronger than ever and will only get stronger. Babylon will not longer rule!! Pura Vida!!

  • hanscom

    It will happen in Mass. Any back tracking will tick people off even more. Even people who don’t smoke. Mass has a home grow option too so Trump can’t even touch it without sending DEA to every backyard. People in Mass love to garden. Already have 5 friends ready to grow this summer with secluded yards. Medical is getting stronger too but still need more dispensaries to open.

    • massvocals

      please study those names filing cannabis and marijuana bills on line at the state .org .and vote them out

  • jim

    The only reason the politicians pull this anti voter behavior is because they get away with it, And the purchased media act as if that is just fine. maybe it’s time to take names and start recalls until we get their attention.
    God bless all those who work to end the war on drugs.
    Gentle Jim

    • massvocals

      you have to protest there acts listing them and voting them out or re-calling them

  • massvocals

    The new appointed joint committee is full of prohibitionist progressive politicians who game is to pull apart chapter 334 acts of 2016 legalization law , everyone has to call there rep asked them to support S1062, S1063 h113 h2385 h2388,h2451 and restore the time frame The was