Pubdate: Wed, 19 Jul 2017
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2017 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: Joshua Miller


The legislation proposed in Massachusetts wouldn't change the basic
marijuana rights of adults that the ballot question put in place.

The Massachusetts Legislature is advancing an overhaul of the
voter-passed marijuana legalization law Wednesday, when both chambers
are expected to accept a House-Senate compromise bill in the afternoon.

A final Senate vote, which would send the bill to the governor, is
scheduled for Thursday.

The legislation would change the legalization law passed by 1.8
million voters in November.

It would raise the total tax on retail pot purchases to a maximum of
20 percent, up from a maximum of 12 percent that was spelled out in
the ballot law. The bill would also merge oversight of the
recreational and medical marijuana industries into a five-person
Cannabis Control Commission.

And it would change how cities and towns can ban or severely restrict
local recreational marijuana facilities, such as pot shops and farms.

The ballot question gave that right to voters in each municipality.
The House-passed version of the overhaul would have given that power
to local elected officials instead.

The legislative compromise splits the difference: Cities and towns
that voted "yes" on legalization last November would still require a
voter referendum to ban or severely limit marijuana shops. But in
cities and towns that voted "no," local elected officials would get to
make those decisions.

Some outside lawyers have questioned whether that provision is
constitutional. The senators and representatives who wrote it insist
the bill is on solid legal footing.

The legislation wouldn't change the basic marijuana rights of adults
that the ballot question put in place.

If, as expected, the bill is sent to Governor Charlie Baker and signed
into law, adults 21 and older will continue to be able to grow, buy,
possess, and use limited quantities of cannabis. They've been able to
do that legally since Dec. 15, 2016.

Retail sales are expected to start next summer. After a ramp-up
period, pot is expected to be a billion-dollar industry in
Massachusetts, according to state estimates.

Voters in seven other states have legalized cannabis for recreational

Marijuana possession was first outlawed in Massachusetts in 1911.

In 2008, voters "decriminalized" the drug, replacing the criminal
penalties for possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana with a new
system of civil penalties.

In 2012, they legalized the drug for medical use.
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