Massachusetts House, Senate pass 6-month delay on recreational marijuana implementation

MA lawmakers on Beacon Hill on Wednesday, December 28, passed a measure to delay portions of the recently approved ballot question legalizing recreational marijuana. Only a handful of lawmakers were present in both chambers when the bill was gaveled through on Wednesday.

Among the key deadlines that would be put off six months include the current March 1 deadline for state Treasurer Deb Goldberg to appoint a cannabis control commission to oversee the recreational marijuana market; a September 15 deadline for the commission to approve detailed regulations; an October 1 deadline for accepting applications for retail marijuana outlets, and the January 1, 2018, deadline for licensing the first pot shops. "I think, we'd want to give it enough time to make sure that we hash out any questions or issues that people had".

Governor Charlie Baker, who campaigned against the initiative, must still sign off on the law change.

Coalition members and supporters were outside the State House on Friday protesting the bill and urging Baker not to sign it. The issue will likely compete for attention with state budget deliberations over the first half of 2017.

Baker is "committed to adhering to the will of the voters by implementing the new law as effectively and responsibly as possible", the governor's communications director Lizzy Guyton said.

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The ballot initiative that allows adults 21 and over to possess and use limited amounts of recreational marijuana and grow as many as a dozen pot plants in their homes was approved by 53.7 percent of voters on November 8 and took effect on December 15. Now lawmakers, including many who opposed the voter law, are tasking themselves with rewriting and amending the law.

Both Rosenberg and DeLeo have also highlighted the combined 10 percent sales and excise tax rate on marijuana in the law as an area of future focus.

He said that he was unaware of the measure before the vote but he was not surprised.

Waterfall said attorneys who crafted the legalization law, which was passed by MA voters in November, looked to other states and included a reasonable timeframe that didn't need to be delayed.

Aside from the delay on recreational cannabis retail, the state has had a decent track record when it comes to treating marijuana users as law-abiding citizens. "We'll be mobilizing our community of hundreds of thousands of cannabis consumers to get this decision reversed early next year".

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