Last November’s election delivered a somewhat surprising feat for supporters of cannabis legalization as eight out of nine state ballot measures passed. Four states legalized adult-use cannabis, with Massachusetts and Maine leading the way in the Northeast.
But the fight for legalization doesn’t end there; in fact, it’s just beginning.
Since Massachusetts voters approved Question 4, which legalized the use and sale of cannabis for adults, opposing legislators have been chipping away at it. First, state lawmakers approved a bill to delay the implementation of the law by six months (until July 2018). The decision was made on Dec. 28 during an informal session with no public hearings or a vote. The Boston Globe called it an “unusual legislative action.”
Three weeks later, on Jan. 20, Sen. Jason M. Lewis (D–Winchester) sponsored several additional bills that would limit home growing (reduced from 12 to six plants per household) and possession amounts (reduced from 10 ounces at home to two ounces), restrict potency, increase the new law’s 3.5% excise tax, allow municipalities to prevent cannabis businesses from operating and delay sales of infused products and potentially ban them altogether. Lewis opposed Question 4.
In Maine, after a recount of the Question 1 ballot initiative proved fruitless, a bill to similarly delay issuing business licenses for three months from November 2017 to February 2018 was approved by a legislative committee on Jan.19.
In stark contrast, California and Nevada, the two other states to legalize cannabis on Nov. 8, have seen no legislative pushback. On Jan. 18, Lori Ajax, California’s chief cannabis regulator, told a roomful of marijuana growers, “We will not fail and will make this happen by Jan. 1, 2018, because we have to.” On Dec. 1, incoming California Attorney General Xavier Becerra pledged to defend legal cannabis against Trump administration threats and, the following day, treasurer John Chiang sent a letter appealed to Trump and California’s Congressional delegation about finding a solution to the industry’s banking problem.
In Nevada, on Jan. 17, Question 2 advocates cheered Governor Brian Sandoval’s marijuana tax proposal, which sets a 10% excise tax on adult-use sales, in addition to the 15% wholesale tax.
On Feb. 10, Nevada officials said they would be fast-tracking regulations that would allow the state’s dispensaries to begin selling for adult-use customers as well as soon as July. “The idea is we would get going pretty quickly,” Nevada’s Department of Taxation Executive Director Deonne Contine stated.
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