Big Changes Or Small Tweaks? Lawmakers To Revisit Mass. Pot Law

By Bob Salsberg, Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — Legislative leaders have made clear they are not through with making changes to the voter-approved recreational marijuana initiative, but it remains to be seen whether future action amounts to an overhaul of or a mere tinkering with the new law.

A committee of House and Senate lawmakers will soon be named to consider potential revisions and make recommendations to the full Legislature.

Marijuana backers are watching closely to see whether the panel’s makeup tilts toward members who opposed the November ballot question, or those who were supportive. That could offer a hint as to how significant any changes might be.

The Legislature bought itself more time last month by postponing key deadlines related to retail sales of recreational marijuana by six months.

A look at just some of the issues the committee might weigh:

TAXES

The law calls for a 3.75 percent excise tax on recreational pot sales. Marijuana products will also be subject to the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax and a local option sales tax of 2 percent, making for an effective maximum tax rate of 12 percent.

Many critics of the law say that’s too low, and won’t even cover regulatory costs.

States where recreational marijuana was previously legalized have substantially higher tax rates: Colorado, 29 percent; Washington, 37 percent; and Oregon, 25 percent.

Marijuana (WBZ-TV)

Marijuana (WBZ-TV)

Ballot measures recently passed by California and Nevada voters establish 15 percent tax rates, while Maine’s new law is more in line with Massachusetts, imposing a 10 percent sales tax on marijuana.

Backers of the current Massachusetts law say they’re open to higher taxes in the future, but argue that lower taxes initially will strengthen the legal marijuana market while weakening the illegal market.

They also note that some legal states in the west have lately been reducing, not raising their taxes.

LOCAL CONTROLS

While a few Massachusetts communities have signaled a willingness to put out the welcome mat for marijuana businesses, others are far more hesitant. So lawmakers may well debate how much control local officials should have over pot shops.

The law allows cities and towns to place “reasonable safeguards on the operation of marijuana establishments,” but they cannot, without voter approval, prohibit stores totaling fewer than 20 percent of the liquor stores in their community. For example, if a town has 10 liquor stores, it must allow at least two pot shops.

One possibility would be to reverse the procedure and require local voters to opt in if they want retail marijuana stores, rather than opt out if they don’t want them.

HOMEGROWING

Democratic Senate President Stan Rosenberg, who supported passage of the ballot question, is among those calling on lawmakers to reconsider how much pot people can grow in their homes. The law allows individuals to grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes, with a household limit of 12 plants.

Rosenberg has suggested those ceilings be lower, though he hasn’t said by how much. Arguments against home growing include the potential for the pot to be sold to the underground market.

Marijuana plant (WBZ-TV)

Marijuana plant (WBZ-TV)

One emerging consensus, however, is that lawmakers will have a much tougher time changing parts of the law that have already taken effect, including homegrown pot.

POTENCY AND EDIBLES

The law is silent on potency restrictions for legal marijuana products. Will it remain silent?

Many studies have pointed to marijuana being more potent than when baby boomers were toking in their college days.

Marijuana edibles (WBZ-TV)

Marijuana edibles (WBZ-TV)

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker is among those suggesting the Legislature consider limits on the concentration of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, in edible forms of the drug that will be legal to sell in Massachusetts. Marijuana-fused edibles, including such products as brownies and candy, are considered the fastest-growing component of the recreational market.

Sponsors of the ballot question say legislators need not take action because the law empowers the yet-to-be-appointed Cannabis Control Commission to adopt strict rules for the sale, packaging and labeling of recreational pot.

Comments

One Comment

  1. Once again there is talk about the legislator overriding the will of the voters, this time indicating that they want to consider reducing the number of marijuana plant a homeowner is limited to. This indicates that these legislators have little understanding of growing marijuana.

    To start with marijuana has male and female plants, only the unpollinated female plants produce usable product. This means at the very least you have to plant 3 seeds of a variety of marijuana, in the hopes that one would be a female. You can buy feminized seeds, which produce only females, but female plants from feminized seeds have an increased risk of turning into hermaphrodites (also useless), because of the methods of making feminized seeds. So you have 3 plants hoping one is female, you then create a clone of each plant to be able to determine it’s sex by reduce the number of hours of light per day (called Flower stage). So at this point you have a minimum of 6 plants to be able to determine which one will become the mother plant. The mother plant remains in the increased number hours of light (called Veg stage) and used to create clones which produce the useful product.

    Because marijuana are males or female plants their offspring (the seeds) produce plants that are as different as your own children. Each of those children produce marijuana that produce different effects when used. Experienced growers plant a 100 seeds, half will be females and then they will select the best offspring that will grow well in their environment and produce product with the desired traits such as smell, taste or different mind altering effects. So the limit of 12 plants already makes it difficult for a grower to be able to craft their product the way in which a home brewer might. There are also thousand of varieties of marijuana that home growers would like to try and the 12 plant limit would restrict home growers to 2 varieties per year and maybe only one if they want to increase their craft.

  2. From what I understand the reason legislators are considering reducing the plant limit is because of concerns about home grown marijuana ending up in the blackmarket. If someone is going to sell their home grown marijuana to the black market, is it reason to think that that type of person is going to obey the plant limits in the first place. Secondly, it sounds like the legislators would rather have the blackmarket supplied by out of state growers or Mexico, would not be better to keep that money in Mass. Not that I am condoning the second point. This sounds like a teacher punishing the whole class, becasue of few whom are not likely to follow the rules to begin with. If the legislator pass a reduced number of plants, then they are showing they have no common sense or that they have another agenda like tax revenue.

  3. Barry Clark says:

    The major state/local government cost of marijuana and booze is not regulation. It is for criminal justice, healthcare, etc. Practically everyone from the President on down says that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. Yet the 12% MA tax on marijuana is higher than the state’s taxes on alcohol.

    MA has no sales tax on alcohol sold for off-premises consumption (mostly from liquor and grocery stores). The state charges a small excise tax. The excise tax on twelve 12-ounce bottles of beer is 12¢ (10.6¢/gallon). The excise tax on hard cider up to 6% alcohol is even lower, at 3¢/gallon. MA also has low excise taxes on wine and hard liquor.

    It is no secret that most MA politicians opposed marijuana legalization. So did the booze lobby, which makes sizable political contributions in MA. And now, MA politicians are calling for higher taxes on marijuana. Journalists should do more in-depth reporting. A good place to start looking would be at the website for the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Not all the contributions listed there are categorized, but there is enough to connect the dots.

    MA should not increase the marijuana tax, which would further tilt the playing field against it.

  4. If protecting children from edibles is Massachusetts’s top concern they should require cannabis-infused edibles to be marked with Green Cross Safety Symbols. They allow you to identify cannabis outside the package and reduce the risk of accidental consumption.
    To learn more about edible safety visit http://www.facebook.com/greencrossedibles

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