Massachusetts Lawmakers Delay Regulation of Marijuana

Dec 29, 2016

massachusetts-flagMassachusetts lawmakers passed a measure Wednesday that would delay the full implementation of Question 4, the initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol, which voters approved in November.

The Boston Globe reports:

It took less than an hour, and only about a half-dozen state legislators, to approve a bill that would overturn significant parts of a marijuana legalization law that 1.8 million voters approved just last month.

With no public hearings and no formal public notice, the few lawmakers on Beacon Hill passed a measure on Wednesday to delay the likely opening date for recreational marijuana stores in Massachusetts by half a year — from January to July 2018.

The move was met with criticism from Question 4 supporters, who pointed out that Colorado lawmakers were able to effectively implement a similar initiative in a timeframe that is similar to the one stipulated in Question 4.

The Yes on 4 campaign issued the following statement:

We are very disappointed that the Legislature has decided to alter Question 4 in an informal session with little notice regarding proposed changes. We are willing to consider technical changes to Question 4 so that the new law is implemented in a timely and responsible manner. However, our position remains that the measure was written with careful consideration regarding process and timelines and that no major Legislative revisions are necessary. Further, the voters of Massachusetts approved Question 4 by a significant margin, and any alteration of the law deserves a transparent, deliberative legislative process.

As MPP's Mason Tvert pointed out, the reasoning behind the delay is not particularly sound.

“The Legislature has a responsibility to implement the will of the voters while also protecting public health and public safety,” [Senate President Stanley] Rosenberg said. “This short delay will allow the necessary time for the Legislature to work with stakeholders on improving the new law.”

But Mason Tvert, a national advocate for legalization at the Marijuana Policy Project, scoffed at the premise of the Senate president’s statement.

“The will of the voters was to protect public health and public safety by regulating marijuana,” Tvert said. “By delaying the regulation of marijuana, lawmakers are delaying the protection of public health and public safety.”

Question 4 officially took effect earlier this month, at which time it became legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana.