Pubdate: Wed, 28 Dec 2016
Source: Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA)
Copyright: 2016 Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Note: Rarely prints LTEs from outside circulation area - requires 'Letter
to the Editor' in subject
Author: Matt Murphy and Andy Metzger, State House News Service


BOSTON -- The process for licensing retail marijuana shops would be
delayed by six months under legislation that surfaced Wednesday in the
Senate before clearing both branches, the result of which could push the
legal sale of marijuana, authorized by a successful ballot campaign this
year, well into 2018.

The House and Senate on Wednesday morning during lightly attended informal
sessions passed a bill (S 2524) amended by Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester,
pushing out the effective dates of several key milestones in the new law,
including the dates by which the state will begin accepting applications
and issuing licenses for retail pot shop licenses. The state, under the
bill, would have until July 2018 to issue the first licenses for retail
pot sales.

The move highlights a rare willingness among lawmakers to tinker with a
law approved directly by voters.

The bill also directs the Baker administration to contract for a study of
marijuana use, including patterns of use and methods of consumption,
incidents of impaired driving and marijuana-related hospitalizations and
the economic impacts on the state.

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, who presided over Wednesday's session,
said the bill would not impact any provisions of the new law that went
into effect on Dec. 15, including the legalization of possession, use,
gifting and home-growing of marijuana. House and Senate officials said the
delay would give 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. This short delay
will allow the necessary time for the Legislature to work with
stakeholders on improving the new law," Rosenberg said in a statement.
"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."

The bill must still be signed by Gov. Charlie Baker before becoming law.
The legislation would give the forthcoming Cannabis Control Commission an
extra six months --until March 15, 2018 -- to develop initial regulations,
and applications for testing facility licenses and for retail sales from
established medical marijuana dispensaries would be delayed until April 1,

Treasurer Deborah Goldberg would also have until September, instead of
March, to set up the new Cannabis Control Commission.

"Our goal has always been to make sure that the intent of the voters is
carried out," House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in a statement. "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."

Will Luzier, who was part of the coalition that promoted the marijuana
ballot initiative, said he was "disappointed" that lawmakers are pushing
back retail sales of marijuana.

"If they need that much time to tweak the process, we're disappointed that
they have to take that much time but we understand that that's the way it
is," Luzier told the News Service.

Luzier said he believes the delay will likely be a hardship for those in
the burgeoning marijuana industry.

"Sitting on an investment for that much longer is probably a problem,"
Luzier said.

Luzier was also disappointed with the process of passing the change
through the Legislature, saying he only saw the new language Wednesday

"We only had about two hours to review it. We only got it at nine o'clock
this morning," Luzier said. He said, "We're disappointed that it went
through in an informal session, and we would have liked to have had more
to review it, but the process is the process."

Asked if he was attempting to persuade a pro-marijuana lawmaker to object
to the bill before it is enacted, Luzier said he has been in contact with
"our allies" and said, "We haven't gotten a commitment from anyone yet."

Rosenberg and DeLeo said that in the coming weeks they will also set up a
Committee on Marijuana comprised of Democrats and Republicans from both
branches to work with stakeholders and draft additional legislation to
address concerns with the new law.
- ---
MAP posted-by: