The Massachusetts House leaders have progressed a bill that would radically change the recreational marijuana laws that voters passed last November. The bill would drastically increase the retail tax from the current maximum of 12 percent to 28 percent. It would also allow municipal officials to decide on whether growing facilities and dispensaries can be set up in the area as opposed to allowing the local voters to decide. While these 2 changes have created the most upset, according to Rep. Mark J. Cusack, the bill also seeks to make 1 singular agency oversee both medical and recreational marijuana. It also limits advertising, places more restrictions on edibles and takes away Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg’s solitary authority over the industry.
“It Insults Voters”
The bill is only in the first stages of progression although it has already incited anger from advocates of the bill who are saying “it insults voters” and strong concern from lawmakers who are saying it will make sure that the black market continues to thrive since residents will seek the most reasonable and affordable option. Massachusetts has a retail tax of 6.25 percent. Initially the recreational marijuana tax was set at 3.75 percent with a 2 percent local tax. This creates a total of 12 percent. The new bill enforces a 16.75 state marijuana tax and an additional 5 percent local tax, totaling 28 percent. The sum is being called “irrational” by officials and will likely make it more affordable to buy through the black market.
Removing the Public Vote
Apart from these additions, the rest of the bill remains the same. Adults over 21 would still be allowed to buy, possess and use small quantities of marijuana and grow up to 12 marijuana plants per household. The bill also ensures that marijuana stores would still be set to open in July 2018. Usually, if municipal officials intend on preventing certain establishments from setting up shop locally, they need to have a public vote. This bill would remove that power and right from the public and place it squarely in the hands of municipal officials.
Back to Black
Another point of grave concern is that the medical marijuana oversight, would be moved from the Department of Public Health over to the Cannabis Control Commission. There is fear that this line of action could reduce the perspective of the plant’s medicinal benefits and increase problems should the federal government decide to crackdown on the marijuana industry. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has already revealed his desire to crackdown on marijuana and even issued a letter to Congress this week, requesting their support in going after the medical marijuana industry. According to polls, 94 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana, yet his position on the plant still places the industry in danger.
Some version of the bill is expected to be passed on Thursday but the legislation still needs to go to the Senate and the governor. It’s unclear at this time what aspects of the bill may remain but advocates are working to make sure that what passes resembles the bill passed by voters last November.