The New England region dominated the cannabis news last week. In Massachusetts, the legislature finally passed a recreational marijuana plan after months negotiations. And in New Hampshire, decriminalization legislation was signed into law by Gov. Chris Sununu. Find out about that more in our weekly marijuana legislative roundup.
On Wednesday, the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill to modify and implement the recreational marijuana law approved by voters in November. The move follows lengthy negotiations between members of the House and Senate, which had passed widely divergent implementation bills in June.
The House bill had sought to raise the maximum tax rate on cannabis sales from 12 percent to 28 percent and remove the power of voters to regulate the opening of retailers at the municipal level. A Senate bill would have largely left the ballot measure intact while expunging prior marijuana convictions.
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Under the compromise legislation, the maximum tax rate on cannabis sales will be increased from 12 percent to 20 percent. Those with prior marijuana convictions will be able to have their records sealed, but not expunged. The Cannabis Control Commission will be increased from three to five members, to be appointed by the governor, attorney general, and treasurer. A municipal referendum will be required to outlaw recreational stores in the 260 municipalities that voted for legalization in November.
In the 91 localities that voted against legalization, however, only a vote of the municipal governing body will be necessary to impose such a ban. Critics argue that this unorthodox arrangement may violate the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee. Adults 21 and older will be allowed to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and grow up to 12 plants at home. Sales of recreational marijuana are expected to begin in mid-2018.
On Tuesday, Gov. Chris Sununu signed legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in New Hampshire. Under the new law, possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of cannabis, or five grams of hashish, will be reduced from a misdemeanor crime to a civil violation.
When the new law takes effect, a first or second violation will be punishable by a $100 fine. Each subsequent offense within a three-year period will be punishable by a fine of no more than $300. However, a fourth violation within three years could result in a misdemeanor charge. Police will not be allowed to arrest people for marijuana violations, and all money raised through fines will go toward the prevention and treatment of drug and alcohol abuse.
When the measure becomes law in 60 days, New Hampshire will become the last state in New England to decriminalize cannabis possession.