BOSTON – Yesterday the Massachusetts Senate passed S.2090, sponsored by Senator Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy, which would ensure the public health and safety of patient and consumer access to medical and adult use of marijuana in the Commonwealth.
Instead of repealing and replacing the language passed by voters in November 2016 and November 2012, the Senate maintained core principals from the ballot initiatives and amended the current law. The Senate left the voter-approved 10% tax and 2% local option tax intact, as well as the requirement of a local referendum to ban retail marijuana establishments in a city or town. Additionally, it retained the 2012 ballot initiative to allow medical marijuana.
“The Senate bill preserves the will of voters who passed the ballot question in November 2016. This legislation sets up an improved governance structure for the oversight of the industry, ensures access to the market for communities who have been disproportionally affected by the War on Drugs, and keeps the tax rate at a level that we hope will eliminate the black market,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “I have every confidence that we will have a bill to the Governor’s desk by July 1.”
“Since receiving this committee assignment, I’ve talked to my Senate colleagues and heard their ideas and concerns. Together we found ways to move forward on this issue and build a comprehensive piece of legislation,” said Senator Jehlen. “We took steps to increase economic opportunities for local business owners and farmers; we set aside funds for research, communities affected by the War on Drugs, and those whose marijuana convictions can be sealed; and we established that the CCC will create public awareness campaigns to reduce youth use, reduce impaired driving, and educate about responsible usage. These are only a few of the measures included in the Senate bill, but I’m incredibly proud of members for remaining dedicated to passing a bill that maintains the voters’ will and implements a safe, regulated, and legal marijuana market.”
“This legislation takes important steps to shrink the black market, promote a diverse and responsible industry, and establish strong public health and safety protections, especially for our youth, while respecting the will and intent of the voters,” said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Senate Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy. “Further, by mandating rigorous research and data collection to inform public policy, as well as a commission on drugged driving, the legislation also lays the groundwork for sound lawmaking around marijuana policy in the future. I commend Senate President Stan Rosenberg for his vision of responsibly and deliberately addressing the myriad issues surrounding adult-use marijuana legalization, and I commend Senator Jehlen for her collaborative and thoughtful leadership on the Marijuana Policy Committee.”
The Senate bill would strengthen oversight:
· Expands the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) to five members: one appointment each from the Treasurer, Governor, and Attorney General, with two additional consensus appointments
· Establishes a commission on the effects of impaired driving and how to detect impaired drivers
· Mandates clear advertising, packaging, and labeling standards while preserving flexibility for the CCC to adjust to changing industry practices
· Implements a strong research agenda that tracks marijuana use trends, economic trends and impacts, monitors the elimination of the illicit market, tracks employment trends in the marijuana industry, and compiles data on any continued enforcement of Chapter 94C crimes related to marijuana
· Creates public awareness campaigns to reduce youth usage, reduce impaired driving, and education about responsible usage
The bill would expand economic opportunities for all:
· Removes the head start for businesses already licensed for medical marijuana so that all individuals and businesses have a fair shot at entering this industry
· Allows for the production and sale of industrial hemp under the Department of Agriculture
· Requires the CCC to encourage participation by farmers and small businesses, including providing lower priced licenses and the ability to form cooperatives to small cultivators
The bill would promote justice:
· Ensures that possession of marijuana by those under 21 is treated the same as underage alcohol possession
· Promotes opportunities in communities impacted by the War on Drugs
The bill would protect and preserve the medical marijuana program:
· Protects the ability of the medical marijuana program to serve patients and reduces bureaucracy by carefully transferring the oversight of the medical marijuana program to the CCC over the next 18 months
· Institutes significant privacy protections for patients participating in the medical marijuana program
· Helps current medical marijuana facilities to compete by allowing them to convert into for-profit entities
A Conference Committee comprised of both House and Senate members will now work out the differences between the Senate bill and the House bill passed earlier this week. Their compromise bill will then head to the Governor’s desk for his signature.