Getting to know your new weed law
For all the holy hell that we have given countless Beacon Hill lawmakers over their meddling with the cannabis law passed by voters last year, there are also a few legislators who stood firmly during the negotiation process, who helped salvage several important components of the original law, and who have been keeping constituents up to date with blog posts that drill into every last detail.
We recently cited the explainers of Boston and Belmont Sen. William Brownsberger, whose website features a lengthy discussion with voters about the cannabis compromise bill. It’s recommended for anyone who wants to grow or be involved with weed in any way in the Bay State to check out that resource, as well as the recent public letter on the matter penned by Cambridge, Medford, and Somerville Sen. Pat Jehlen, whose bullet points we’ve quoted, chopped, and paraphrased below to help break developments down into plain English.
As for input and criticism, our view at this point is that it is far too early for conniption fits. What’s done isn’t even technically done yet, as there will certainly be lawsuits and a whole lot of municipal maneuvering before all of the chips land. We’re already looking into countless stories and the various committees and initiatives formed under the bill, but for now it’s critical that both users and those who have plans to get involved in the recreational industry learn the basics. If for no other reason than that you stop asking us pot reporters about this stuff at parties.
For all the cold hard facts, we recommend perusing the “Act to Ensure Safe Access to Marijuana” in its complete form. In the meantime, these helpful notes from Sen. Jehlen and her staff are a good primer:
- In the vast majority of communities, voters supported legalization. In those communities, any ban or restriction on the number of marijuana establishments greater than those permitted under the ballot question must be approved by referendum. In communities that opposed legalization, elected officials can ban or severely limit production and sale.
- The bill allows retail producers who don’t already have medical marijuana licenses to apply without a one or two-year waiting period.
- The bill places responsibility for implementation with three state officials who will all face re-election in 2018. They have an incentive to make sure the law works and a safe legal market is developed.
- The bill contains Senate priorities for addressing social justice and remedying the damage to people and communities from decades of arrests and incarceration based on previous marijuana laws.
- The bill preserves opportunity for people with non-violent drug offense records to have a second chance as employees in this new, legal industry.
- The bill gives priority to license applicants with demonstrated experience in promoting economic empowerment in communities disproportionately impacted by high rates of arrest and incarceration due to previous marijuana laws.
- No one will go to jail for possessing small amounts of marijuana, including 18 to 21 year olds.
- The bill contains protections requested by medical marijuana patients. It ensures confidentiality of their records and allows electronic filing of healthcare provider certifications, allowing immediate access to temporary registration cards and to medical marijuana.
- Medical marijuana remains untaxed.
- The bill legalizes the production of hemp, which can be a valuable crop for farmers.
- The bill requires the Cannabis Control Commission to develop ways for small producers to form coops, and to establish license fees based on the size.
- The state tax will total 17 percent, with a 3 percent local option. Massachusetts marijuana taxes will still be among the lowest among the eight states that have legalized marijuana. It will be the same as Oregon, which is seen as among the most successful states.