Since voters in Massachusetts chose to legalize cannabis for adult use and commercial sale in November, lawmakers have been unable to leave the law be the way voters approved it. They have been in the process of trying to pass bills since the legislative session for 2017 began – but now there have been two specific lawmakers appointed to rewrite the marijuana laws for the state.
The two in charge of creating changes to the legalization laws are Representative Mark Cusack, who has not taken a public stance on cannabis at all, and Senator Pat Jehlen, who is a supporter of legalization. Together the two of them are going to try and come to an agreement when it comes to where to change the law from the original one passed by voters in the election.
Both men agree that most voters were likely in favor of the idea of legalization, rather than the specific details of the law passed. However, unlike some who want to severely restrict the original law, there is hope that with at least one vocal supporter of legalization in the pair the law won’t change all that much.
“I think the will of the voters is they wanted recreational marijuana, not that they sat there and read every word of the ballot measure before they voted for it. It was really: Do you want it or do you not?” Cusack said in an interview in the office of House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, who appointed him.
There is hope that this will put an end to the talk of getting rid of the 12 plant home growing limit for a much smaller limit. But it seems that the main focus for these two lawmakers is how to tax the sale of cannabis. The law that was passed set the tax at 3.75%, with the opportunity for local cities and towns to add an additional 2% tax – all of which is considerably less than other states that have legalized marijuana.
Activists absolutely don’t want to see this tax changed. The idea, from their point of view, was to keep the tax low, so the price will be lower or at least the same as the black market, helping to put an end to it that much faster. However, lawmakers are more focused on whether or not that tax amount would be enough to sustain both the industry as well as supply sufficient funds to other designated funds for things like education.
In the end, the Governor expects to have a new bill on his desk by June – which gives the lawmakers a few months to come up with new regulations surrounding the newly legalized cannabis industry. But the delay will only give them more reasons to hold off at least the additional six months they’ve already asked for, if not longer. At this rate it will be mid to late 2018 before cannabis goes on sale for the first time in Massachusetts.