Legislature Passes Comprehensive Marijuana Legislation

The Massachusetts Legislature has passed a bill to 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.”

“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.”

“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."

“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.”

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.

  • 10.75 percent state excise tax

  • 6.25 percent state sales tax

  • 3 percent local option excise tax

  • An optional impact fee negotiated by host communities capped at 3 percent

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.

  • If a municipality voted in the negative for the 2016 marijuana ballot question, the decision to prohibit or restrict marijuana establishments will be determined by the municipality’s governing body until December 2019
  • If a municipality approved the 2016 marijuana ballot initiative, the number of marijuana establishments can only be limited through a local referendum.

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:

  • Certified child-resistant packaging and opaque containers.

  • Regulations regarding advertising, marketing and branding, including:

    • Advertising is only permissible in markets where at least 85 percent of the audience is over 21;

    • A product cannot be identified as safe other than CCC-regulated labeling.

    • Bans retail shops near school zones.

    • Licensees must have a publicly available software application to track and trace all marijuana cultivated, process, or manufactured, from seed-to-sale.

    • Edible marijuana products will have a single serving limit of 10 mg of THC and cannot resemble any non-marijuana food product currently sold.

    • Labeling to indicate that a product is or contains marijuana, and the amount of THC in the product.

The total taxes and fees collected from recreational marijuana can add up to 23 percent.  State revenues collected from the marijuana excise tax, as well as fees generated from application fees, will be directed to the newly-established Marijuana Regulation Fund. The Fund will finance the CCC and the designated programs outlined below. Any additional money will revert to the General Fund.

  • Substance addiction prevention and treatment;

  • Substance addiction early intervention services through school grants;

  • Public safety including an awareness campaign established by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security;
  • Public health

  • Programing for restorative justice, jail diversion and workforce development for economically-disadvantaged individuals in communities disproportionately impacted.

Up to 6 percent of gross sales, up to 3 percent from the local optional tax and up to 3 percent for the optional impact fee, will go to the host community.  6.25 percent is the sales tax, which goes to the transportation fund, the school building fund, and the general fund.

Given the difficultly 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.

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  • josh cutler
    published this page in Blog 2017-07-21 14:48:27 -0400

Rep. Josh S. Cutler
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