On Wednesday June 21, 2017, I joined a majority of the House or Representatives to pass legislation that implemented the referendum passed by voters legalizing recreational marijuana. I did cosponsor amendments that were ultimately unsuccessful to: (1) bring the overall tax rate down (while maintaining the higher local option tax), (2) allow for the expungement of records for those with use-related offenses, and (3) to restore the process for citizens to ban the sale of recreational marijuana in their city/town.
We were successful in passing a number of amendments related to industrial hemp agriculture, empowering the growth of women and minority-owned businesses within the industry, creating a pathway for craft cultivators, protections for parents of minor children, and dedicated at least $50 million of the revenue to prevention education and substance use treatment.
This legislation maintains the personal use provisions outlined in the 2016 ballot initiative. Adults 21 and older can use marijuana and can possess up to one ounce in public and ten ounces at home. They may possess six plants per person but no more than 12 plants or ten ounces per residence. It also increases the local option to 5%, so that cities and towns can raise additional revenue from sales within their borders.
Although the final bill did not include all of the amendments I had supported, I ultimately decided to vote for the amendment package and move the process forward to the Conference Committee so that the legislation can be finalized and retail sales can begin next year.
Here’s a quick overview of the bill passed in Massachusetts:
To promote strong oversight and accountability for the regulation of adult-use marijuana, this legislation creates an independent five-member Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) which will be housed under the Office of the State Treasurer. The CCC will be charged with overseeing the application and licensing process, including a review of the integrity of licensees, their financial stability and qualifications both during the application process and on an ongoing basis. It will promulgate regulations for the implementation, administration and enforcement of adult-use marijuana, and will make regular inspections of licensees.
The CCC will adopt diversity licensing goals to provide meaningful participation of communities disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition and enforcement and development training programs to achieve impactful industry participation by minority individuals, women and veterans.
The House has prioritized consumer safety and public health. As such, this bill includes the strongest testing standards in the nation and gives the CCC oversight of testing laboratories. It requires all labs to be independent from Registered Marijuana Dispensaries (RMD) and mandates alignment with pharmacy standards for purity.
Under this legislation, the CCC will consult with the Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) to establish standards for the cultivation, processing, manufacturing and distribution of marijuana, including guidelines for food products.
The CCC will also establish standards for packaging, potency or dosing limitations, seed to sale-technology and security for cannabis licensees. Requirements include:
The overall tax rate of 28 percent includes:
Revenue collected from these taxes and application fees (with the exception of the local tax) will go to the newly-created Cannabis Revenue Fund. After funding annual operating costs associated with the adult-use marijuana industry, $50 million from the Fund will be expended annually on substance addiction and prevention programs.
To enhance efficiency and allow for the creation of local bylaws and ordinances, this legislation bolsters local control measures. The governing body of a municipality will be able to vote to prohibit recreational marijuana establishments. Municipalities that have already held referendums will be grandfathered in.
Under this legislation, the medical marijuana program would be updated and brought under the auspices of the CCC. This consolidation will help ensure a timely launch by streamlining oversight and leveraging existing experience and resources.
For the first time, industrial hemp will be statutorily recognized as an agricultural product that may be cultivated, possessed, processed, bought or sold, and researched. MDAR will oversee industrial hemp as an agricultural product. Any person growing industrial hemp must be licensed by MDAR.