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Group Urges MA Lawmakers to Hold off on Cannabis Law Changes
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
March 14, 2017
BOSTON (AP) — The group behind a ballot initiative that legalized recreational cannabis in Massachusetts is now urging state legislators to keep the new law intact.
The appeal from Yes on 4 came one week before the Legislature’s marijuana policy committee was scheduled to open public hearings on possible revisions to the law, which allows adults to possess an ounce or less of marijuana and grow up to a dozen cannabis plants in their homes.
Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for the group, accused policymakers of creating a “false narrative” around the notion that the voter-approved measure, as currently written, is flawed.
“The new law requires no legislative fixes,” he said.
Before considering changes, Borghesani said, lawmakers should defer to the yet-to-be-appointed Cannabis Control Commission, a three-member panel that will serve as the regulatory body for recreational marijuana in the state. If necessary, the commission could later make recommendations to the Legislature for any changes, he added.
The Legislature has already voted to delay for six months several key deadlines contained in the law, including the original March 1 deadline for appointing the commission. The delay is likely to push the opening of the first retail shops in Massachusetts back to mid-2018 at the earliest.
Borghesani said Massachusetts is the only one of the eight states where recreational marijuana was approved by voters to delay the timetable for implementation or consider a significant overhaul.
Legislative leaders on Monday appeared unmoved by the group’s plea to leave the law alone.
“It’s not our intention to undermine the will of the voters, it’s our intention to get it right,” said Democratic Senate President Stan Rosenberg. His comments were echoed by Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who shared advice offered by officials in states that previously legalized recreational marijuana.
“Almost to a person they said you should make sure you have enough time to set this thing up in such a way that you’re not constantly chasing it,” Baker said.
The legislative committee, chaired by Rep. Mark Cusack, of Braintree, and Sen. Patricia Jehlen, of Somerville, could explore a number of changes including an increase in taxes. The law currently calls for a 3.75 percent excise on marijuana sales, applied on top of the state’s regular 6.25 percent sales tax and a 2 percent local-option tax.
Critics have questioned whether the tax would generate enough revenue to cover the cost of regulating the drug.
Since the Massachusetts vote, lawmakers in neighboring states including Rhode Island and Connecticut have been considering the possibility of legalization more seriously. A public hearing was held at the Connecticut Statehouse last week on several bills that would allow for the cultivation and retail sale of marijuana.