The Massachusetts House had planned to vote last week on a bill making substantial changes to the voter-passed recreational marijuana law.
In a statement Friday afternoon, Speaker Robert DeLeo said the House is focused on passing a "comprehensive bill that addresses public health concerns, promotes public safety and protects our economy by ensuring that this new industry pays for itself".
Rep. Mark Cusack, the House chairman of the Marijuana Policy Committee, argued at the outset of debate the bill makes "sensible and practical" improvements to the ballot question. We're joined by State House News Service reporter Matt Murphy, who described the problems with the first draft and discussed the looming budget deadline.
"Tax rates are negotiable".
The House bill sets a 28 percent tax on marijuana sales while the Senate would hold the rate at the maximum 12 percent prescribed by the current law.
Among states that had previously legalized recreational marijuana, Washington has a 37 percent tax, Colorado 27.9 percent, and Oregon's tax is 17 percent after being lowered from 25 percent. It would also be legal to grow up to two mature, nd four immature cannabis plants. "People will drive to New Hampshire to save six-and-a-quarter percent on a purchase, you think they will walk past their neighborhood dealer that they've been buying from for years and drive two towns over to get to a market?" At Scott's request, the new measure would have made it a misdemeanor crime for minors who provide marijuana to other, younger minors.
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"Local control remains with the communities". Instead, the House bill implements "virtual separation", a system that allows medical and recreational users to shop at the same facilities and distinguishes between medical and recreational marijuana at the register.
"It's always easier up here on Beacon Hill to be for a tax cut than a tax increase", said Cusack, a Braintree Democrat.
Turner and Sears both say that even if the bill isn't passed now, the Legislature can take it up when lawmakers return in January and it can be passed in time to have the same effective date, currently slated for July 1, 2018.
Rep. Mark Cusack, the House chair of the marijuana committee, said the higher tax rate was justified because of the "many unknowns" associated with implementing and regulating marijuana sales in MA. The group seeks inclusion of minority-owned marijuana businesses, according to its Facebook page.
The Senate's timeline is less clear. Senate President Stanley Rosenberg will talk to members about the bill Monday and Tuesday, Senate officials said.
Estimated to benefit approximately 19,000 New York State residents now suffering from PTSD, the Assembly version of the bill easily passed in the Democrat-controlled body in early 2017. Jehlen said she expects the Senate to vote on the legislation within "seven to ten days", though a tentative debate has been scheduled for next Thursday.
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