Monday, July 17, 2017

The Marijuana compromise bill... by Senator Bownsberger

We’ve finally reached agreement on a marijuana bill.  I hope that most voters will feel that the language improves on what the majority approved last November while fundamentally respecting the majority’s intentions.
First, to highlight some things that the compromise bill does not do:
As to local voter approval, the compromise does provide that if a community voted against the ballot question last November and local officials want to implement the expressed will of their community by imposing a ban on marijuana establishments, they can do so between now and 2019 without going to the voters a second time.  This affects 91 communities comprising 28% of state’s population.
Second, to highlight the major things the compromise bill does do:
As to regulatory structure and scope,
  • Broadens the governance of the new state regulatory agency, the Cannabis Control Commission, by dividing the appointing authority among the state’s top elected officials.
  • Fills out “boilerplate” powers, duties and procedures for the CCC that were absent in the ballot question language.
  • Strengthens public health protections – the ballot language gave the CCC the authority to regulate advertising, packaging and labelling and to require purity testing, but the compromise bill provides much stronger and more specific direction to the CCC.
  • Defines research questions to be answered by the CCC in the course of implementation.
  • Consolidates the regulation of adult recreational marijuana and medical marijuana under the single new authority.
  • Moves the medical marijuana language approved by the voters in 2012 to a new statutory home as Chapter 94I, while preserving the approved language and regulations issued under it.  Previously, this language was not properly codified.  There are a few minor changes, mostly to clarify and streamline procedures for patients.
  • Clarifies procedures for local ballot questions limiting the number of marijuana establishments and adds new language to assure that zoning and other regulations will not be used to evade the requirement of voter approval for numeric limits.
  • Caps the fees that municipalities can charge prospective licensees at 3% of gross sales – the ballot question included no cap.
  • Makes certain possessory offenses civil that remained criminal under the ballot question
  • Adds language assuring that people with prior convictions for possession under the old laws can have their records sealed.
  • Add language intended to direct benefits of the new law to communities that were impacted by enforcement under the old law.
Other measures
  • Adds language authorizing full background checks for commission employees and applicants for licenses, but does not alter the principle that people having criminal records but without felony drug convictions records should not be barred from employment by a licensee.
  • Reduces the head start in the application process for adult recreational store licenses that the ballot question gives to medical marijuana licensees – this should move the market out more rapidly.
  • Creates a new provision for cultivation of industrial hemp and also supports small growers through a new cooperative concept.
Finally, the compromise does increase the excise tax on marijuana from 3.75% to 10.75%.  It also bumps up the excise that municipalities may add from 2% to 3%.  So together with the state sales tax of 6.25%, the maximum tax goes from 12% to 20%.
That total tax is still among the lowest in the nation and should not, in itself, be a barrier to expansion of the legal market.  I came to peace with the tax increase when it dawned on me that it would give both state and local regulators stronger incentives to actively support expansion.
The compromise reached by negotiators from the House and Senate is subject to final approval in each branch later this week.
I’m hopeful that with these changes, we will be on our way to a well-regulated market in marijuana products that will replace our dangerous and destructive illegal market.

4 Comments:

At July 17, 2017 at 4:11 PM , Blogger jim Pillsbury said...

If any of our readers are of the mind to tell Gov Baker to veto the Bill, please call his office and remind them of his plead NOT to raise taxes.at:

Massachusetts State House
Office of the Governor
Room 280
Boston, MA 02133

Office Hours:
Monday – Friday
9:00am – 5:00pm

Phone: 617.725.4005
888.870.7770 (in state)
TTY: 617.727.3666

 
At July 17, 2017 at 4:13 PM , Blogger Jim Pillsbury said...

his pledge

 
At July 19, 2017 at 3:21 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what happens now in Framingham Jim?

 
At July 19, 2017 at 3:42 PM , Blogger jim Pillsbury said...

As of last night, the BOS may try to make some by-law proposals to restrict zoning. Or if they really want a fight, they can propose a referendum question on the ballot to ban pot shops. Those on the BOS who are running for office in November would be wise to respect the will of the voter, as they know full well, who will fight any attempt.
After losing their asses a few years ago trying to ban and restrict medMJ dispensaries, I'm betting they have the sense not to try either, after all, more voters voted for legalization than all of the voters who voted for all of them.
The Cannabis Control Commission will be in place soon and will take applications for retail early next year.
One thing that may happen is a constitutional challenge of the law that distinguishes a differences between Towns that voted Q4 down and Towns that didn't. You can't make laws discriminate against certain Towns and Cities.

 

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