Last month, 4 states voted to legalize recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21. California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts residents all voted November 8th to end prohibition in their respective states, joining Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and D.C. in legalizing recreational marijuana. Advocates of the move in Massachusetts were frustrated to get news this week of a delay in the process. Officials have adjusted the date that recreational marijuana sales can begin, from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2018. The extra 6 months is being described as needed to ensure that legislation is as well put together as possible.
A Matter of Public Health and Safety
Public health and safety is being regarded as the primary reason that recreational marijuana sales will be delayed, according to Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg, who is a Democrat. “This short delay will allow the necessary time for the legislature to work with stakeholders on improving the new law,” he explained. “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.” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, who is a Republican, is set to sign the bill that will create the delay but his spokespeople have made it clear that he intends on working with public safety officials to ensure that legalization is put into place.
More Than Recreational Marijuana Sales Delayed
Recreational marijuana sales are not the only thing being delayed. The 6 month delay has been added to every marijuana-related deadline. The “cannabis control commission” was supposed to be put together by March 1st. This date has been moved back to September 1st. In all, the deadlines for sales, taxes and regulations have been pushed back, slowing the process right now. Marijuana was officially legalized on December 15th. This makes marijuana possession and cultivation legal in the state, while marijuana sales themselves remain illegal. It leaves many residents in an awkward position for a longer period of time, which has frustrated many who were advocates of the bill.
A Disappointment to NORML
According to the Boston Globe, the decision to delay the bill occurred in an “informal” legislative session with only “a half-dozen legislators present.” The decision was made with almost no debate and public testimony was not taken. NORML, the organization behind legalization in the state, had been asking for the law to be implemented in the time frame requested by voters and was severely disappointed by the decision.
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said, “The arrogance and hubris lawmakers are showing toward voters is remarkable. The voters have spoken and it is incumbent on legislators to carry out their will. Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to impose criminal penalties on marijuana – doing so in 1914. After more than a century of this failed policy, it is time to bring prohibition to an end in Massachusetts.”
Voters will have to wait a little longer now to purchase marijuana in stores. Private use and possession as well as cultivation will be legal until recreational marijuana can be legally bought in stores on July 1st, 2018.