It was a strange week in the cannabis world. In Vermont, the House of Representatives refused to consider emergency legislation during a special session. In Nevada, all sides are still battling over distribution plans as the July 1 deadline approaches. And in Massachusetts, a compromise “repeal and replace” bill passed. Find out about that more in our weekly marijuana legislative roundup.
On Wednesday, the Vermont House of Representatives declined to take up a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in the state during a special veto session. The bill, which passed the Senate in a voice vote, would have allowed adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants at home starting in July 2018. A commission would also be created to study the social and fiscal impacts of recreational marijuana in states such as Washington and Colorado. The commission would then make recommendations as to how Vermont should proceed in implementing cannabis legalization.
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The legislation included provisions to address public health and safety concerns expressed by Governor Phil Scott when he vetoed a legalization measure passed by both houses of the legislature in May. The bill’s sponsors hope to bring the legislation up again during the 2018 legislative session. Governor Scott said that he will create a commission to study recreational marijuana in the meantime.
On Friday, Nevada regulators announced that they intend to issue recreational cannabis retail licenses to medical dispensaries despite a court order. In late May, a Nevada judge sided with a group of liquor wholesalers that argued that they, rather than existing medical dispensaries, should get first priority in applying to distribute recreational cannabis. The judge ruled that the Department of Taxation did not follow proper regulatory procedure in determining that insufficient interest existed among liquor wholesalers earlier in the year.
However, a spokesman for the DOT said Friday that the court ruling did not prohibit the state from issuing other types of licenses. This will allow medical marijuana dispensaries to sell their stock recreationally, but they will not be able to restock until the issue of distributor licensing is worked out. It is unclear whether the planned July 1 start of recreational sales will have to be postponed.
On Wednesday, members of the Massachusetts House passed a bill designed to “repeal and replace” a recreational cannabis measure approved by voters in November. The ballot initiative imposed a 3.75 percent excise tax on cannabis sales on top of the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax. Municipalities are also given the option of imposing up to an additional 2 percent in local sales taxes.
Under the House bill, the state excise tax would be increased to 16.75 percent and the municipal sales tax cap would be raised to 5 percent, in addition to the state’s regular sales tax. This would effectively increase the maximum tax on recreational marijuana sales from the voter-approved 12 percent to 28 percent, while imposing a stringent set of additional regulations. The bill would also give municipal governing bodies the authority to sharply restrict or even ban the opening of recreational cannabis businesses without consulting voters. Adults would still be allowed to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and grow up to 12 plants at home.
On Thursday, the Massachusetts Senate passed a less far-reaching bill to regulate the state’s recreational cannabis industry. The legislation would leave the ballot measure in place but amend the way recreational and medical marijuana are regulated at the state level. It would also expunge past marijuana convictions and require municipalities to hold referendums on whether to allow marijuana retailers. A conference committee will now be tasked with hammering out the differences between the House and Senate bills before a self-imposed July 1 deadline. Recreational marijuana sales are set to begin on July 1, 2018.