Massachusetts: Lawmakers Amend Voter-Initiated Marijuana Legalization Measure

MAWith little debate, 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. Governor Charlie Baker, who campaigned against the initiative, must still sign off on the law change. [UPDATE: Gov. Baker signed the language into law on Friday, December 30.] Separate provisions in the law eliminating penalties for adults 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, and it continues to urge Massachusetts voters to take action.

NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri called lawmakers’ decision 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.

35 thoughts

    1. Unfortunately, America just voted IN an entire collection of ardent prohibitionists that remain silent and aren’t disclosing their intent.

      Many Republicans are still so fascist on this topic that I wouldn’t be surprised to watch Session’s confirmation hearings slide by and have him not get asked his stance on this issue, just so they can avoid it and create more ‘shock and awe’ later from the legal stalwarts as they drop the hammer.

      Best case, they’re all in one tidy package now and will be exposed over the next 4 years so they can all be flushed from office, like a giant bowl of diarrhea into the sewer.

      Conversely, any regressive measures those ignoramuses make now could provoke permanent fixes from congressional action to protect the industry. Night turns into day sort of speak.

    2. In Massachusetts we voted yes to question 4 now the state is refusing to acknowledge our vote. This is not the way that a democracy is supposed to work. if it was to vote on a higher tax I’m sure we’d all be paying that tax by January 1st. Butt it doesn’t agree to everyone and then marijuana become legal and they are making it possible for drug dealers and gang members to make money well the state drags their feet as usual

  1. Slap in the face is NORML advocating for legislation that clearly gives government the opportunity to control patients access & even outlaw cannabis in cities as they see fit. Guess you guys are more political/corporate than activists.

    1. Yeah, NORML also advertises for the same opiate cartel pharma corporations that they bash so often. I have seen ads for suboxone and pill mills multiple times on this site. Hypocrisy.

    2. So by contrast an undisclosed continuance of going to jail for marijuana would be a better option? Is the perfect the enemy of the good when the remaining option is PRISON?

  2. Massachussetts, Maine, you might as well just hold joint talks with Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont to legalize adult recreational and restructure the medical marijuana market within that framework all in tandem with one another, and nobody gives a shit if Trump doesn’t like it. What’s not to like? There’s plenty of money in it, and Trump likes money.

    U.N. to reclassify cannabis, yeah okay, should’ve done it a long time ago. Ah, I’m not waiting on the U.N. for their approval. The U.S. just needs to remove cannabis altogether from any kind of schedule and pave the way for full legalization.

    What’s the matter with Kansas?

    1. Interesting articles, thanks Oracle.
      Don’t be so quick to downplay the momentum in the UN Single Convention. While the ASA is largely focused on legalizing medical marijuana, and Sec. of State John Kerry already told us in response to a letter from Sen. Gillabrand that the US doesn’t have to respect the UN Single Convention to legalize, this is the law the DEA keeps pointing at that allegedly prevents them from re or descheduling cannabis in the US. I’ve written before on how the new UN Sec General Antonio Guterrez is the best thing that could happen to legalization internationally. He’s a very wise negotiator and set an example to the world when he decriminalized all drugs in Portugal in 2001. He’ll give wings to Canada and Colombia and he will listen and give voice to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

      As for what’s happening to Shona Banda, I still call this state sanctioned domestic terror on an innocent family. Denying a woman the only safe treatment for her Chrone’s disease? Forcing her 11 year old son to testify against his own mother for speaking the truth at a DARE meeting, making him feel responsible for his own mother’s imprisonment and death? Shona is looking at dying as she has to stop consuming cannabis or lose custody of her child. Clearly, prison won’t give her anything to keep her alive. Please sign this petition if you haven’t already:

  3. What a bunch of jokers, they must think they are in Kremlin! Talk about disrespecting the will of the people. This is right wing democracy in action.

    1. What’s in a name? A trump session sounds like something which would occur in a casino.
      Oh yes I forgot, hint hint, legalization of cannabis creates something which can compete against casinos for attention and money.

    2. Try Patrick Kennedy, Project SAM and Big Pharma. Hell, the money laundering for Big Pharma goes so deep even the Diocese of Boston dumped 3/4 of a million into stopping this bill.

  4. after what happened here in Montana (and recently undid), I can’t help but feel that this is not that terrible of a thing, and it could have been far, far worse. At the same time, I feel strong that there should be some kind of protection to prevent elected officials from meddling in voter rights like this. In the very least legislature should have to wait until the following session to make changes to voter-initiative.

  5. and now Mr. Sessions and Grassley and Hutchinson and the rest will carry on the ultra-conservative STINK of Prohibition and make it illegal EVERYWHERE all over again, right. This is an outrage, it never ends with this backwardness! Delays and Prohibition standing firm. Just more and more and more of the same!

  6. SO TYPICAL! This will empower and inspire the opposition in all other states, too, including neighboring ones to continue to attack and attempt to destroy legalization and the future. This is an outrage, but not suprising at all.

  7. “Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to impose criminal penalties on marijuana – doing so in 1914.”

    In 1914 marijuana was called Indian hemp and (it was made criminal because it was associated with Mexicans).

    Indian hemp was also still available as medicine but needed a prescription until the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (now the DEA) got involved.

    Once the high school drop out Anslinger caught wind of this opportunity to fu#k with minorities he made sure marihuana was associated with blacks and later under Nixon added anti war hippies.

    As of December this year the National Governors Association (of which Gov Cuomo is a member) is looking at a data driven criminal justice reform in five states: Illinois, Arizona, Oregon and 2 states to be announced in early 2017. Let’s make sure New York is one of them and that the data includes cannabis/hemp production and use.

    and since it’s data driven it should take about 10 minutes to run the data through a computer and get the results that prove what the shafer commission did in 1972 which called for decriminalization of marijuana.

    It’s ironic that Mass. (The home of the Boston Tea Party) voters got screwed by only a hand full of lawmakers like (R) Stanley Rosenberg and (R) Bruce Tarr.

  8. All these morons have to do is look (and I’m sure that Co will be glad to advise) to Colorado. They have done it right, the FIRST time. I have been there A LOT since the first “dispensaries” opened in Jan 2014, and they have “tweaked” the law a number of times and gotten it right. All these ass hole politicians in states like Ma and ME are doing is trying to stop/delay the inevitable AND going against the democratic vote of the “people”.

  9. In Oregon the state legislature tinkered plenty with the law the voters passed. Is it legal? Yup. Is it right? Well folks, if enough voters are upset, they can always vote out those elected officials who fiddled with the measure but let’s face it, MJ is a backburner issue so it is not likely to get these clowns removed for their antidemocratic moves.

    Sometimes the truth of a situation sucks. I have seen other legislation I supported go down in flames due to politicians playing politics. They seem almost immune to damage unless a black swan event like Trump comes along. Even a nasty scandal was not enough to cause a loss by Governor Kitzhaber in Oregon in his last run for office. In democracy you get the government you deserve and it is obvious we don’t deserve much.

    1. Well, I honestly don’t see how a “black swan event like Trump comes along” without a bunch of damn fools voting for him. I know I didn’t!

      In that sense, Trump is not a black swan event, because the Republican Party has been nurturing and cultivating these racist, white-supremacist types for decades, using the proverbial “dog-whistle.” Now it’s just out in the open, with Trump.

      And I can’t see how he’s made “politicians playing politics” MORE accountable to the voters. So far, he’s given the marijuana community one hell of a gigantic “fuck you” with the nomination of Jeff Sessions for AG. That’s an action that speaks louder than words.

  10. I read from the Denver Post that the legislature wants to delay rolling out retail sales to make sure a strong regulatory system is in place. That’s a good thing. It’s best to take the time and make this thing work right. Possession amounts and home growing is still in effect and legal in Massachusetts under the voter approved law.

    1. Maybe; but then again, Sounds like a political stall tactic, to buy time for cronies to jostle into the feeding trough, or possibly worse, to bow to The Orange Emperor, and offer it up as a sacrifice, for him to shut it down personally.

      Anyway, they have the Colorado model (and others) to go by. Shouldn’t take that long to replicate.

      Stinks to me, and I ain’t talking about skunk!

  11. All thier doing is delaying tax revenue while anyone can possess and grow it. The government is cutting themselves in the throat and allowing a black market to gain momentum. That black market will now be supplying the entire northeast with herbals. Fuck the government

  12. Make a choice, legal weed or Republicans,,, you can’t have both. Let’s just hope that this is just a four year hiatus on legalization and not like in 1980 when the “small government, personal responsibility, get the government off out backs and make America Great Again” voters set the movement back 30 years. Batten down the hatches and hire some good lawyers.. a gale’s a coming.

  13. re; double take said:
    the legislature wants to delay retail sales to make sure a ‘strong regulatory system’ is in place. That’s a good thing. It’s best to take the time and make this thing work right.

    sure, trust the same people that never wanted this,
    to do the right thing for it.

    just wait and see;
    “a strong regulatory system”,
    will mean a million, rediculous, hoops to jump through,

    NONE OF WHICH will be applied to sellers of alcohol or tobacco,
    even though those are the MORE HARMFULL, MORE ADDICTIVE, alternative substances…

    like how far away,
    a pot shop must be,
    from any; school, school bus stop, playground, park, day care center, church, ect.

    like a pot shop must have more security in place than a bank, or a pharmacy.

    like a pot shop must keep a photocopy of every customer’s I.D. .

    like a pot shop must never hire any person with any criminal record, of any kind.

    like how many pot shops will be allowed per city.

    like how much money, pot shops will have to pay for their ‘special’ buisness licence, ect.

    and maybe even how much they MUST charge,
    because if the pot shops sell pot too cheaply,
    the state will get less pot taxes,
    and people will buy less alcohol,
    and so the state will get less alcohol taxes, too.

    (…and EXPENSIVE POT will insure that the black market stays in place,
    so all the cops can keep their jobs,
    and so the prisons will stay full…)

    they may put enough regulations in place, that NO pot shops will open !!

  14. (‘strong regulations’ continued)

    …we just passed medical mj in florida,
    in november;
    and before it has even started,
    they are putting DRUG TESTING in place for employees of the state;
    so if you are lucky enough to have a good job with benefits,
    working for the state of florida,
    or the local counties,
    like a garbage truck driver,
    or at the water treatment plant,

    of course, the judges and politicians are exempted,
    because nobody cares if they have ‘impaired judgement’,
    right ??

    or is it just because they ALWAYS consider themselves to be ‘above the law’ ??

    i am sure many more ‘strong regulations’ will be put in place later, too.

    they never wanted medical mj here,
    they fought against it with ads filled with miss-information and outright lies,
    and also; there were absentee ballots mailed out, that did not have the medical mj innitiative printed on them !!

    and now that it has passed,
    they will try to ‘regulate it to death’.
    just wait and see.

  15. I don’t see the big deal in it. It’s still legal to smoke and possess, just delays opening of the dispensaries. Might as well pass good laws for the shops than rushed shitty ones

  16. I don’t think these idiots can be voted out. They have a monopoly on the voting process and clearly when we vote they can just change what it is we voted for later to suit their needs. If voting isn’t the answer and we can’t afford to all just move out of the US to a country that respects our vote and is a true democracy then what course of actions are we left with? Also how ironic that we spend billions of taxpayer dollars to spread democracy overseas but can’t even manage it in our own country!

    1. What we have left is Civil Disobedience.

      Look to the Sixties for reference. The Sixties encompassed many social causes, both good and bad; and these, very often, in response to each other.

      In the face of widespread racial injustice, there were citizen protests, and acts of civil disobedience. Similarly, in the face of an illegal and unjust war in Vietnam, there were citizen protests, and acts of civil disobedience.

      In the case of marijuana, in the Sixties, the act of smoking it was itself an act of civil disobedience. And as you know, cops took that shit seriously back then (as many still do today. The public is more educated now; but we have a long way to go, baby!)

      It may come to that again under an AG headed by Jeff Sessions. Stoner Society may have to move back underground, if Sessions threatens violence, which, frankly, he is likely to do.

      Granted, that would be tumultuous and unprecedented; but not only is it possible, it also appears to be precisely where we are headed, unless we stop it now.

      So, for now: Please, write your Senators!

      1. Sixties, hell — Civil Disobedience is happening now!! Do we “stoners” have as much strength in our convictions as these NAACP activists? News excerpt:

        Police end NAACP sit-in against attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions
        By: KIM CHANDLER
        MONTGOMERY, Ala. —

        Several NAACP protesters led by their national president were escorted away in handcuffs by police after staging a sit-in Tuesday at the Alabama office of Sen. Jeff Sessions, the nominee for U.S. attorney general, the civil rights group said.

        The organization held the demonstration to protest Sessions’ nomination by President-elect Donald Trump, saying Sessions has a questionable record on civil rights and “can’t be trusted to be the chief law enforcement officer for voting rights.”

        “We have an attorney general nominee who does not acknowledge the reality of voter suppression while mouthing faith in the myth of voter fraud,” Brooks said by phone earlier in Tuesday’s protest.

        The sit-in at Sessions’ office in Mobile, Alabama — the city the Republican senator calls home — began around after 11:a.m. Tuesday. Demonstrators refused a request by the building manager to leave when the building closed for the day at 6 p.m. Police could be seen on video footage coming and handcuffing at least five protesters and escorted them to a police van.

        “We all are aware of the laws of trespass. We are engaging in a voluntary act of civil disobedience,” Brooks told the officers who arrived at the scene.

      2. Clearly, the NAACP and NORML are on the same side here, in opposition to Jeff Sessions’ confirmation for USAG.

        On a superficial assessment, the two organizations have different objectives: voter rights, and marijuana legalization. But scratch the surface, and you will find that we are both fighting for social justice. This is why the two movements should be formal allies, in open opposition to Trump. This thinking extends to gay rights, and many other progressive organizations. We need to officially join forces, and consolidate for power. It’s the only way to achieve a long-term progressive environment in which we can all survive and thrive.

        And, finally, this is why I reject Trump supporters who say things like, “Trump will leave marijuana alone; he’s just going after immigration issues.” If we buy into this line of shit, we will be divided, and conquered.

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