For Immediate Release Contact: Natalie Higgins, 978-602-3772
July 21, 2017 Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov
Legislature Passes Comprehensive Marijuana Legislation
Facilitates implementation of ballot question while safeguarding public health and consumer protection
(BOSTON) – Representative Natalie Higgins joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature recently to pass a bill that fully implements consumer access to adult-use marijuana while creating a robust public health and safety framework.
This legislation maintains the personal use provisions outlined in the 2016 ballot initiative. Adults 21 and older can use marijuana and possess up to one ounce in public and ten ounces at home. They may possess six plants per person but no more than 12 plants or ten ounces per residence.
“This bill reflects a commitment to legalizing adult-use marijuana while upholding our duty to ensure safety and effective management,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “In addition to the rigorous product testing and security measures, I believe that the independence of the Cannabis Control Commission will allow this new industry to be implemented in a safe manner that works for all residents, not just the marijuana industry.”
“This bill is a balanced approach to adult use of marijuana in Massachusetts. We have kept the tax rate low to abolish the illicit market while implementing rigorous safeguards to protect public health and safety,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “In addition, we have included meaningful provisions to ensure that communities who have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs will be able to participate in the cannabis industry and provided an easier path for local farmers and local small businesses to participate. I am hopeful that this bill will be model legislation for other states who are contemplating legalization.”
“In November, nearly 1.8 million people voted to legalize adult use of marijuana, but every resident of the Commonwealth has a stake in its successful implementation,” said House Majority Leader Ron Mariano (D-Quincy). “A total tax rate of up to 20 percent is necessary to help regulate this new industry and to address inevitable challenges, primarily the increased exposure of marijuana to young people. The black market will be searching for new customers and this bill calls for increased funding for early intervention services and public awareness campaigns, and provides significant barriers to prevent children of our communities from being indoctrinated into this market by advertising campaigns aimed to attract them.”
“We have protected the right of adults to grow, possess and use marijuana. To give them access to a safe, legal supply, the bill removes barriers to the development of a legal market,” said Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy. “It protects the rights of medical marijuana patients, and gives opportunity to farmers and to people who have been harmed by the War on Drugs. This bill increases public health and safety protections, and specifies ways to prevent products from appealing young people. The tax rate remains among the lowest in the country, and the same as in Oregon, often seen as successful.”
“Last November, voters chose to have safe and regulated access to adult use marijuana”, said Representative Mark J. Cusack (D-Braintree), Chair of the Committee on Marijuana Policy. “Our task has been to ensure that we implemented and regulated this new marketplace with common sense consumer protections and public safety measures. This important, bipartisan legislation does just that. It gets it right for the consumers, right for the industry and above all, it gets it right for the people of Massachusetts."
“As a supporter of marijuana legalization, I think this is a good bill. I also think that this is a bill that even opponents of marijuana can support. It will make the market safer and stronger,” said Senator Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont).
“I am grateful to have worked with my fellow conferees to ensure that the necessary structure and safeguards are in place to safely and effectively regulate this new, legal marketplace,” said Representative Hannah Kane (R- Shrewsbury).“While our marijuana excise tax is the 2nd lowest in the nation, it still provides sufficient revenue to cover our direct and indirect regulatory costs, with additional funding available to cover substance abuse prevention and treatment, public safety and public health campaigns relative to legalization. Likewise, our first in the nation requirement to prohibit TV, radio, billboard, print or internet advertising and marketing for marijuana unless proven that at least 85% of the audience is over 21 years of age, based on reliable, up to date audience composition data, will make a real and substantive impact on what our youth see and hear in terms of marketing marijuana, and we know that less exposure for youth to marijuana messaging means less youth use.”
“I am pleased to hear my colleagues in the legislature accepted the marijuana conference committee report. As a committee, we reached the best possible compromise for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, following the passage of Ballot Question 4. I am content with the work of the committee members and staff, as well as the final product,” said Senator Richard Ross (R-Wrentham).
The compromise legislation sets a tax rate that balances local and state revenue while curbing the black market. The structure outlined below aims to ensure that the costs associated with this new industry are self-financed and to incentivize local adoption. Medical marijuana remains untaxed.
In an effort to support the Commonwealth’s municipalities and allow for the creation of local bylaws and ordinances, this legislation includes compromise language regarding local control.
To promote strong oversight and accountability for the regulation of adult-use marijuana, this legislation creates an independent five-member Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) which will be housed under the Office of the State Treasurer. The CCC will be charged with overseeing the application and licensing process, including a review of the integrity of licensees, their financial stability and qualifications both during the application process and on an ongoing basis. It will promulgate regulations for the implementation, administration and enforcement of adult-use marijuana, and will make regular inspections of licensees.
The CCC will study participation and, if needed, adopt diversity licensing goals to provide meaningful participation of communities disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition and enforcement and development training programs to achieve impactful industry participation by minority individuals, women and veterans. This legislation 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. The CCC will be required to encourage participation by farmers and small businesses, including providing lower priced licenses and the ability to form cooperatives to small cultivators.
The composition of the CCC reflects the broad expertise and autonomy necessary to regulate this new industry including appointees with expertise in public health, public safety and corporate management. These appointments will be made by the governor, attorney general, treasurer, respectively.
This legislation prioritizes consumer safety and public health. As such, this bill includes the strongest testing standards in the nation and gives the CCC oversight of testing laboratories. It requires all labs to be independent from marijuana establishments and mandates alignment with pharmacy standards for purity. While the legislation maintains the personal use provisions, it also adds liquor license penalties for sales to people under 21 including social host language.
Under this legislation, the CCC will consult with the Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) to establish standards for the cultivation, processing, manufacturing and distribution of marijuana, including guidelines for food products.
The CCC will also establish standards for packaging, potency or dosing limitations, seed to sale-technology and security for cannabis licensees. Requirements include:
Given the difficulty of detecting if someone is driving under the influence of marijuana or other narcotics, this legislation establishes a special commission to conduct a comprehensive study and make recommendations regarding enforcement.
Under this legislation, the medical marijuana program will be updated and brought under the auspices of the CCC. This consolidation will help ensure a timely launch by streamlining oversight and leveraging existing experience and resources.
For the first time, industrial hemp will be statutorily recognized as an agricultural product that may be cultivated, possessed, processed, bought or sold, and researched. MDAR will oversee industrial hemp as an agricultural product. Any person growing industrial hemp must be licensed by MDAR.
The bill will be sent to the Governor for his signature.