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Massachusetts Senate Passes Cannabis Bill Calling for Revisions to Law

June 23, 2017
UPDATE, 6/23/2017:

BOSTON (AP) — A six-member House-Senate conference committee has been selected to try and come up with a compromise bill to revamp the voter-approved recreational marijuana law.

Legislative leaders assigned the panel Friday after the House formally rejected the Senate version of the bill.

The House conferees are Democrats Mark Cusack and Ron Mariano, the House Majority Leader, and Republican Hannah Kane.


Massachusetts House Passes Controversial Cannabis Bill, Setting up Showdown

The Senate negotiators are Democrats Patricia Jehlen and William Brownsberger, and Republican Vinny deMacedo.

Cusack and Jehlen were the co-chairs of a Marijuana Policy Committee that spent months reviewing the law that makes recreational pot legal for adults. But the House and Senate went separate ways in the past week, the House passing an extensive overhaul of the law while the Senate opted for a more modest set of revisions.


BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts Senate passed a bill Thursday calling for revisions to the state voter-approved recreational marijuana law, setting the stage for negotiations with the House, which just a day earlier backed a more far-reaching overhaul.

The debate in the Senate over the reshaping of the law which allows adults to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to 12 cannabis plants per household focused mostly on regulatory matters. It unfolded after the House angered many supporters of legalized marijuana by voting to repeal the existing law and replace it with a measure that would, among other things, raise the tax rate on marijuana from 12 percent to 28 percent.

“We should not repeal and replace. We should amend and improve.”
Sen. Patricia Jehlen, Marijuana Policy Committee co-chair

The Senate bill, approved on a 30-5 vote, would keep the current measure in place but with proposed changes in the way both recreational and medical marijuana would be overseen by the state.

“We should not repeal and replace … we should amend and improve,” said Sen. Patricia Jehlen, co-chair of the Legislature’s Marijuana Policy Committee, at the outset of debate. “That is what this bill will do.”

“We need to try to restore some trust in government by not overriding the will of the people,” added the Somerville Democrat, a veiled reference to criticism leveled at the House bill by pro-marijuana activists.


Massachusetts Bill Would Double Cannabis Tax, Globe Reports

The next step will be naming a conference committee made up of three senators and three representatives that will attempt to reach a compromise. Legislative leaders self-imposed a July 1 deadline to deliver a bill to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk, acknowledging that further delays would jeopardize the planned July 1, 2018 start of retail marijuana sales.

The Senate bill holds the tax rate at a maximum of 12 percent, as approved by voters. Keeping taxes relatively low, Jehlen said, would entice consumers to buy cannabis from legal suppliers, while a higher tax might persuade them to continue purchasing from an illegal dealer or perhaps even drive to Maine, where recreational marijuana will be taxed at 10 percent.

The House and Senate bills both change the structure of the Cannabis Control Commission, the state agency that will regulate marijuana. The ballot question called for a three-member panel appointed by the state treasurer, while lawmakers want a five-person board consisting of members named by the treasurer, attorney general and governor.


What’s Behind All the Delays in Newly Legal States?

A key difference, however, is while the House envisions all five commissioners working full-time at their jobs, under the Senate bill only the chairman of the panel would be full-time and the others unpaid volunteers.

Sen. Jason Lewis, a Winchester Democrat who opposed marijuana legalization, promised to support the Senate bill but sought assurances that the cannabis industry would not become dominated by large national companies.

“We don’t want to see big marijuana like we have big tobacco or big alcohol,” said Lewis, who joined other lawmakers in calling for programs that encouraged women, minorities, veterans and small farmers to own or find employment in legal marijuana businesses.

Senators adopted several amendments before the final vote Thursday night, including one that would make it easier for people to erase past convictions for possessing amounts of marijuana that are now legal in Massachusetts.

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  • meow meow

    What’s the point of buying from a store if you can have your own plants. Its a joke.

    • Danny Hickey

      A great number of people are bad gardeners.

    • FlunkedAgain

      It’s not as easy as it seems, especially if you try hydroponics.

      Adjusting the ph is critical, and nutrient deficiencies can be difficult to identify and correct.

      Although you can grow outdoors, you may get a big thank you from the local deer, or human teenagers. I don’t know if there are dung beetles that prefer cannabis dung.

  • meow meow

    Can we buy in mass and bring over into Connecticut legally? Will edibles be sold in Mass. I qualify for a medical card in Cot but its too expensive. 180 cash fir a check up and 100 for a card every year…..might as well buy illegally. I need high CBS fir spasms…fubromyalgia….and chronic back pain.

  • Danny Hickey

    It’s been legal to possess and grow for half a year now. These guys need to get their proverbial thumbs out of their proverbial asses and pass the law that Massachusetts voters voted on. @Fotogirl2016:disqus You would have to look at your own state laws regarding bringing cannabis from out of state. But most likely, without a card, you’d be subject to arrest and prosecution. And yes, once these mooks finally pass the bill me and lots of other MA voters have voted on, all manner of cannabis products will be available. But cannabis procured in MA have to be consumed in MA, I know that much.

  • FlunkedAgain

    If they can create a mechanism for very small growers to get their produce to market, they could encourage a Craft sector.

    The emphasis should be on having a viable legal market that diminishes the underground market, and it’s thuggery.

  • Tanner Lynd

    It is the duty of every person that voted in the Cannabis issue to send a clear message to your legislators that the will of the people shall not be infringed by greedy government, or for any other reason. If your legislator did more than abstain in any way on this government meddling of the people’s legislation on Cannabis… They MUST be voted out by The People. You can not allow your elected legislators to believe they have the right and power to usurp what The People have provided for themselves. I urge every yes voter for Cannabis to send a clear message the next elections, The power of The People is never to be trifled with and the greed and arrogance of the government over the People will not stand. In this instance for all America you MUST vote them all out.