July 18, 2017 Massachusetts
Finally, the cannabis law in Massachusetts has come to a verdict. In the meeting held last Monday, the Senate negotiators and the State House reached an agreement to overhaul the voter-approved marijuana law in the state. The new cannabis law will put a maximum of 20% sales tax on retail cannabis.
The six-member committee that attended the conference behind closed doors had already spent a lot of time on this matter. Negotiation sessions were held prior to last Monday but none of them ended in any decision. It literally took several weeks before the two chambers could finally meet each other at a midpoint.
These newly-imposed taxes are a split of the version of the bill both the House and the Senate proposed. According to the House, the tax on cannabis should have been raised to a minimum of 28%. On the other hand, the Senate was keen to bring it down to a maximum of 12%. The negotiations ended the right in the middle with 20% tax being the higher limit.
As per the agreement, consumers of cannabis will have to pay 10.75% as an excise tax. On top of that, they will also have to pay a regular sales tax of 6.25%. Furthermore, towns and cities have the option to enforce another 3% as local tax. While things aren’t as bad as they were prior to the negotiations, they aren’t very luring for the end user either, at least not with all the different taxes incurring on cannabis purchase.
There has also been a dispute regarding the control that locals have over the cannabis shops. In places where November ballot question is backed by voters, there is a need for a referendum that would at least restrict if not ban the retail stores of cannabis. However, things will be different in towns and cities where residents have gone against the ballot. In such areas, if the simple vote is cast by the city council or the board of selectmen, it would completely bar the retail shops.
Senator Patricia Jehlen spoke on the matter saying that the government has protected the rights adults have to cultivate, possess, or even use cannabis. Patricia affirmed that the bill has removed barriers that once hindered in the way of legal market development. This has opened a legal and safer supply of cannabis for people.
Senator Patricia is a Somerville Democrat. She participated in the negotiations as a lead negotiator for the Senate. The House Majority Leader and Quincy Democrat Ron Mariano called the verdict a fair compromise. He said that the results will actually allow recreational marijuana to be properly regulated and hence move forward.
Senate and the House will be voting on the compromise bill by the end of this week since no further amendments are allowed.