Pubdate: Fri, 20 Jan 2017
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2017 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: Joshua Miller


Senator Jason M. Lewis proposed legislation that would reduce the amount
of marijuana people 21 years and older could possess in their home from 10
ounces to 2 ounces, and the number of marijuana plants people could grow
from 12 per household to six per household.

The right of Massachusetts adults to possess and grow marijuana would be
sharply curbed, and the ability of retail shops to begin selling
recreational pot next year would be deeply undercut if legislation filed
Friday afternoon by a key state senator becomes law.

Senator Jason M. Lewis is proposing bills that would reduce the amount of
marijuana people 21 years and older could possess in their home from 10
ounces to 2 ounces, and the number of marijuana plants people could grow
from 12 per household to six per household. The current right of adults to
possess and use marijuana wouldn't be changed.

The bills would delay when retail marijuana stores - set to open in July
2018 - could sell popular infused products such as pot brownies, sodas,
and massage oils by at least two years. They would also allow regulators
to permanently ban any marijuana products besides the unadulterated plant
matter itself. Such products are hugely popular in states that have retail
pot stores.

And the bills would exponentially increase the power of city and town
governments to reject marijuana establishments, a measure many municipal
officials have urged. (Currently, the law says that if they want to stop a
particular type of establishment from coming to town - for example,
cultivation facilities - they must go to the voters. City and town
officials also need to hold a referendum if they want to sharply limit the
number of pot shops. If a city has 100 retail stores that sell alcohol,
for example, it will need to go to voters if it wants fewer than 20
marijuana retailers.)

Together Lewis's bills would fundamentally change key aspects of the law
1.8 million voters put on the books on Nov. 8. The adjustments could be
met with cheers from many state officials, who see the law as deeply

Lewis, a Winchester Democrat and a strong opponent of legalization, said
lawmakers must respect the will of the voters. But in a statement he said
he is committed to "responsibly and safely implement[ing] a legal
recreational marijuana market in Massachusetts."

Most bills never become law, but what Lewis filed carries special weight.
That's because he's seen as the Legislature's top authority on the
recreational marijuana industry and likely to be the co-chair of a new
Senate-House committee on the drug.

Other lawmakers have also filed marijuana-related legislation, including a
measure to increase municipal control and one that would raise the legal
age for purchasing pot to 25.

Advocates are crying foul about much of what the senator proposed.

"Many of the bills filed by Senator Lewis show little respect for the 1.8
million Massachusetts voters who decided to end prohibition in the
Commonwealth," said Jim Borghesani, a leader of the 2016 initiative, who
currently represents the national Marijuana Policy Project in

"These proposals go too far in unwinding the will of the people and
provide further evidence that Senator Lewis, who was a leading opponent of
Question 4, would be an inappropriate choice to chair the proposed special
committee on marijuana," he said.

Notably, Borghesani added, the Marijuana Policy Project "will commit
resources to preserving the will of the voters." Backers of legalization
spent millions of dollars to pass and implement such measures across the

Among Lewis's 14 bills are several likely to be embraced by both sides of
the recreational marijuana debate.

One would create a research program to track and monitor the social and
economic impact of marijuana legalization. Another would mandate
requirements for marijuana packaging - packages for pot and pot products
would have to be gray, opaque, and child resistant, and couldn't have any
cartoon characters or bright colors. Yet another would create campaigns to
educate youth about the dangers of using marijuana and adults about
responsible use of the drug. Those campaigns would be funded with money
from taxes on pot sales.

In December, with just a few legislators present, the Senate and House
passed a bill delaying the likely opening date of retail marijuana shops
from January to July 2018. Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican who
campaigned against legalization, signed that legislation into law.

Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo
both have voiced support for changing the marijuana law to better protect
public health and safety.

Friday was a key filing deadline for legislation on Beacon Hill. The
two-year legislative session began on Jan. 4.
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