Members of the House and Senate have approved legislation, House Bill 556 and Senate Bill 516, implementing a voter-approved referendum legalizing the production, sale, and use of cannabis.
The bills establish regulations licensing cannabis producers, retailers, testing facilities, and lounges (on-site consumption facilities). Provisions in the legislation permit existing medical cannabis dispensaries to apply for dual licensure to sell to the adult-use market beginning on July 1st. (Regulators would need to begin issuing licenses to new retailers by January 1, 2024.)
The bills also increase the amount of cannabis that qualified patients may possess and also permits them to grow up to four plants at home. Neither bill includes provisions explicitly protecting employees from being sanctioned by their employers for their off-the-job cannabis use.
The two bills impose different tax rates on adult use sales. The House bill proposes an initial tax rates of six percent on cannabis products, while the Senate version imposes a nine percent tax. The Senate bill also allows localities to impose additional taxes, while the House version does not.
Differences in the two bills’ language will likely need to be addressed in a conference committee before being advanced to the Governor’s desk.
Voters in November overwhelmingly approved a referendum (Question 4) directing state lawmakers to establish rules and regulations governing the production and sale of cannabis to adults. By approving Question 4, voters also triggered the enactment of separate, complementary legislation (HB 837), which permits to adults to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and/or 12 grams of cannabis concentrates with no penalty beginning in July. The law also permits adults to home-cultivate up to two plants in a private residence.