Thursday, February 22, 2024

What Just Changed About Massachusetts’ Marijuana Bill?

A little less than one year before legal marijuana officially opens for business in Massachusetts, lawmakers in the House and Senate have agreed upon legislation that changes some aspects of the new law.

Both the House and Senate came up with ideas for this “compromise,” however, on the Senate side, these changes were met with opposition by legalization activists. As it stands now, and will likely soon pass, the bill is literally a compromise between the two sides and puts some tricky hoops in place for citizens to jump through.

The most jarring of these changes is the ability for cities and towns to ban all things cannabis in their region. If the proposed bill passes, a town’s law enforcement will be able to implement a ban if the people of said town voted “No” in the majority against legalization. Granted, these towns and cities are in the minority, but this can clearly lead to enforcement confusion, inadvertent law breaking for Massachusetts residents not aware they’re in a “dry” area and property values could spike or drop, depending on the state’s temperature as a whole.

The bill also states that even if the town or city voted to legalize in the majority, they can still ban pot shops and sales on their own accord, just not via local law enforcement. Again, this could lead to mass confusion.

The taxes were another contention. Originally voted in at 12 percent, which is on the low side comparatively with other legal states, the House proposed a hike to 28%, concerning some that people would simply return to the black market. The Senate, on the other hand, proposed no change, so, being the compromise bill that it is, they landed smack dab in the middle at 20 percent.

Finally, regulation was tweaked and prodded in the new bill. The original law called for a three member board called the Cannabis Control Commission. It is the board’s job to come up with rules regarding marijuana packaging, production, violations and fairness among other concerns and details.

The House and Senate agreed that the board should be raised to a five person panel, with government appointed members, much like their casino regulatory board.

Though many voters believe the original law stood on its own and needed no compromise, this new bill has been fast tracked and the new changes are likely imminent. Luckily, legalization proponents seem fairly satisfied with the results – for now.


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