By Bob Katzen
The Marijuana Policy Committee met last week to discuss the regulation of the possession and sale of marijuana. The committee is expected to draft a comprehensive bill addressing many aspects of the new law. “Yes on 4,” the group that spearheaded the legalization continues to urge the Legislature to respect the will of the voters who approved Question 4 by a significant margin and not make any changes to the law, except for technical ones.
Several bills have been filed to make changes to the law ranging from technical changes to a complete repeal. One of the most controversial proposals would raise the 3.75 percent tax rate on marijuana sales, approved by voters in November. The 3.75 percent is in addition to the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax. The law also gives cities and towns the ability to add their own 2 percent tax as well.
The Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) wants to change the part of the law that requires approval by voters on a local ballot question in order for a community to opt out and prohibit retails sales in that city or town. MMA wants to give authority to cities and towns to opt out of commercial sales via a simple majority vote of the local legislative body. “Under Massachusetts law and our long history of municipal governance, decisions on zoning and commercial activity are inherent in the duties of town meetings, town councils and city councils,” said the group’s Executive Director Geoff Beckwith.
The law gives the treasurer oversight of the marijuana industry. House Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop) and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst) have left the door open to switching some of the authority over to other entities. “That has not been decided,” DeLeo said. Goldberg expressed concern that any switch will further delay the opening of retail pot shops. “My long-term concerns are that if it leaves the treasurer’s office I think, candidly, the deadlines cannot be met,” said Goldberg.
“It is our hope that the committee defer on any bills that would revise the measure as passed by voters until they have the benefit of expert recommendations from the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC),” Jim Borghesani Director of Communications for “Yes on 4” told Beacon Hill Roll Call. “There are other important areas on which the committee can focus immediately, including improved impairment testing and use of new tax revenues. The first priority for the Legislature and the governor should be providing adequate funding for the CCC.”
The 3-member CCC will be appointed by the Goldberg and falls under the treasurer’s authority. She has not yet appointed the commissioners and has until Sept 1 to do so.
Goldberg has requested $500,000 for her office to continue preparations to implement retail sales. The Legislature last week approved only $300,000.