New Mass. Recreational Marijuana Law to Let Locals Decide

The Bay State is passing a law that lets local voters decide to ban recreational marijuana, which won statewide approval through a 2016 voter referendum.

More than eight months after a 2016 marijuana legalization referendum passed, Massachusetts lawmakers are in the process of approving a formal tax-and-regulate recreational marijuana law that will go to Governor Charlie Baker's desk today.

While voters considered a 12 percent maximum tax, the compromise resulted in total state and local sales taxes as high as 20 percent, according to ThinkProgress.

Under the new state law, local voter approval will also be required to ban recreational marijuana businesses. Local rule over state law is an unusual practice, but the compromise is similar to California's 2016 referendum, Proposition 64.

“It really should be a decision by the people, and this compromise mostly accomplishes that,” said Tom Angell of the advocacy group Marijuana Majority.

In communities that voted no on the ballot question, local officials can decide in 2018 to ban pot shops and facilities.

Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg told Boston Public Radio that local decision-making over the new state law is defendable in court.  "According to our attorneys, they say it does pass constitutional muster," said Rosenberg.

Gov. Baker is expected to sign the bill, according to sources at the State House.

Under the new law, State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg will have to oversee a five-person appointed commission that will oversee the state's new recreational marijuana industry. Once in place, the Cannabis Control Commission will promulgate regulations and guidelines to issue licenses by March 15, 2018, and begin accepting applications by April 1st, according to the Worcester Business Journal.

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