By John Lynds
In an informal session last week the state legislature passed a bill that will delay the implementation of recreational marijuana for six months.
While the bill will have zero affect on possessing or home growing marijuana, which went into effect on December 15, lawmakers said they needed some time to study how legalization was implemented in other states and borrow best practices for how to tax, regulate and collect revenues from marijuana sales.
“The legalization of recreational marijuana is a significant change in Massachusetts that deserves a thoughtful and prudent approach with respect to implementation,” said Rep. Adrian Madaro. “Building in time to analyze best practices and craft rational rules and regulations will diminish the possibility of shortcomings in the future.”
Madaro added that a lot of thought will go into how revenues from statewide marijuana sales will be distributed to help boost local economies for cities and towns. Madaro also said Massachusetts is in a unique position to learn from how other states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington implemented such laws and gauge what worked and what did not work as recreational marijuana became more readily available.
According to a joint press release from Senate President Stan Rosenberg and Speaker Robert DeLeo the ballot measure approved by voters in November established firm deadlines for the state to appoint the Cannabis Control Commission, draft and approve regulations, vet applicants and issue licenses for retail sales and cultivation, and to establish seed-to-sale tracking systems.
The legislation passed last week will extend each deadline by a period of six months allowing the legislature more time to improve the ballot question, take up issues not addressed by the ballot question, and allow the state more time to implement the will of the voters.
“The legislature has a responsibility to implement the will of the voters while also protecting public health and public safety,” said Rosenberg in a statement. “This short delay will allow the necessary time for the Legislature to work with stakeholders on improving the new law. Luckily, we are in a position where we can learn from the experiences of other states to implement the most responsible recreational marijuana law in the country.”
DeLeo added that the legislature’s goal has always been to make sure that the intent of the voters is carried out.
“The delay will allow the committee process to work through the law’s complicated implications and provide a process by which we can strengthen, refine and improve it,” he said in a statement.
According to the bill, the Department of Public Health has been directed to partner with a research entity to conduct a first of its kind statewide baseline study on marijuana use in the state. The study will be conducted over 18 months to determine how legalization will impact public health, overall usage rates, and public safety.
Rosenberg and DeLeo said in the coming weeks, the legislature will establish a Committee on Marijuana comprised of member of both branches to work with stakeholders to research, review, and draft marijuana related legislation. Committee members will be appointed by the Speaker of the House, Senate President, and both the House Minority Leader and Senate Minority Leader.
However, not all were pleased by the move.
“This is disappointing to the say the least,” said Jeffrey Zucker, President of the cannabis industry advisory firm Green Lion Partners. “The Massachusetts bill was carefully constructed so that the system could be implemented swiftly. This is an affront to the 54 percent of voters that supported this initiative.”
In a statement to the East Boston Times, Isaac Dietrich, CEO of the cannabis social network and technology platform MassRoots, said, “It’s a shame a small group of legislators are working to undermine the will of millions of voters in Massachusetts. We’ll be mobilizing our community of hundreds of thousands of cannabis consumers to get this decision reversed early (this) year.”