House, Senate Pot Bill Differences Upset Marijuana Legalization Supporters

BOSTON (CBS) — A new version of a recreational marijuana bill is set to come out of committee in the Massachusetts House of Representatives Monday, and some marijuana legalization supporters aren’t happy with it.

Massachusetts House and Senate members have until the end of the month to hammer out a bill that would amend the marijuana legalization measure approved by voters in November.

The House Chair of the Marijuana Committee told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Lana Jones he expects vigorous debate in both chambers.

“This is an issue that every member has an interest in and an opinion on, so I expect a lot of amendments,” says Rep. Mark Cusack. “I have no doubt that we can get to compromise.”

Rep. Cusack said he expects the process to go to a conference committee in the remaining two weeks.

“We’re there about 80 percent of the way,” he said. “I’m hopeful that we can get there.”

Last week, House members pulled their first version of the bill due to procedural errors and some members’ concerns over elements of the legislation. The version coming out today is their second.

In the Senate version released Friday, the sales tax rate on marijuana would max out at 12 percent–but in the House measure set to be released Monday, it’s expected to be 28 percent.

The House and Senate also have to find middle ground on what a city or town wants to do if they want to ban the sale of pot in their community. The House bill allows a board of selectmen to ban marijuana sales from towns, while the Senate would leave it up to voters.

“The House bill repeals the will of the voters–literally,” Jim Borghesani of the Yes on 4 campaign told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens. “They repeal what happened in November of 2016, and replace it with a bill that would be unworkable and that would likely result in significant delays.”

Borghesani decries “the out and out hostility toward the marijuana industry” he says is shown in the House bill.

“It looks like they assume criminality of anyone who wants to enter the industry,” Borghesani adds. “There are onerous review processes. Even if you want to have your parking lot plowed, the plow driver would have to have a background check.”

If there’s no compromise between the two chambers, Borghesani tells WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Lana Jones, the voters’ version could stand.

“That system could go into place tomorrow, with appointments to the Cannabis Control Commission, and the regulation writing process could begin immediately,” he said.

As for now, Borghesani says the Senate version of the bill is closer to the will of the voters, and that’s why the Yes on 4 campaign is endorsing that version.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Lana Jones reports

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