Massachusetts voters approved marijuana legalization on Election Day 2016, and by a healthy margin. Massachusetts became the first state to legalize marijuana for adult use on the East Coast. Marijuana sales were expected to begin no later than January 2018. However, due to a bill that was passed today by the Massachusetts Legislature, sales will be delayed until at least the summer of 2018. Per the Boston Globe:
It took less than an hour and about a half-dozen state legislators to undo the will of 1.8 million voters expressed just last month.
The House and Senate passed a bill on Wednesday delaying the opening date for recreational marijuana stores in Massachusetts by half a year — from January to summer 2018.
The extraordinary move would unravel a significant part of the marijuana law. About 1.5 million people voted against legalization on Nov. 8.
Delays in implementation are inexcusable for the Massachusetts Legislature, and to all governmental entities that drag their feet on implementing marijuana legalization provisions. It’s not as if this came out of nowhere. Elected officials in Massachusetts had plenty of time leading up to the successful vote, and still have plenty of time between now and January 2018 to get the job done. I’d imagine this is the first of many monkey wrenches elected officials in Massachusetts will be throwing into the implementation process. NORML sent out a press release with their response to today’s vote. The press release can be found below:
With little debate and without taking public testimony, House and Senate lawmakers voted today to significantly amend Massachusetts’ voter-initiated marijuana law. The vote sets the stage to delay the establishment of state-licensed marijuana retail facilities from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2018. Separate provisions in the law eliminating penalties for adults to who privately possess or grow personal use quantities of cannabis took effect on December 15.
According to The Boston Globe, the “extraordinary move” by lawmakers took place in an “informal” legislative session with “just a half-dozen legislators present.” NORML had been urging lawmakers to adopt the law swiftly as voters intended. NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri called lawmakers’ action a “slap in the face” to the nearly two million Massachusetts voters who decided in favor of Question 4 on Election Day.
“The arrogance and hubris lawmakers are showing toward voters is remarkable,” he said. “The voters have spoken and it is incumbent on legislators to carry out their will. Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to impose criminal penalties on marijuana – doing so in 1914. After more than a century of this failed policy, it is time to bring prohibition to an end in Massachusetts.”
The move by lawmakers to delay aspects of the law’s implementation is not altogether surprising, as politicians and bureaucrats had previously discussed restricting home cultivation as well as raising the proposed sales taxes rate on marijuana sales.
For more information, please contact Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director, or Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.