After several years of ceding marijuana policy-making to a voting public eager to adopt a more permissive approach to the once completely illegal drug, House lawmakers on Wednesday took the reins of the sticky issue, passing a bill to overhaul how the state will regulate the retail market of the intoxicant.
The legislation approved 126-28 Wednesday night would tax the product at 28 percent, devote $50 million in pot revenues to addiction prevention and treatment, and direct regulators to help those “disproportionately affected” by prohibition to participate in the new industry.
The Senate plans to take up its version of the legislation Thursday and lawmakers are aiming to meet a self-imposed, end-of-June deadline to deliver a bill to Gov. Charlie Baker with hopes that the yet-to-be-formed Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) can start issuing retail licenses in about a year. The House scheduled an informal session on Friday, which could give lawmakers a chance to start reconciling the two versions of the bills in the next few days.
Activists behind the successful 2016 legalization campaign have been highly critical of the House bill, which they say would set an excessive tax rate that will encourage continued sales on the black market and unfairly put decisions about retail pot stores in the hands of elected officials instead of the voting public. The Yes on 4 Coalition prefers the Senate proposal, which has a lighter touch toward rewriting the ballot law. [Read more at Metro]