Recreational Marijuana Bill Signed by Governor Baker

On Friday, July 28th, Governor Charlie Baker signed comprehensive marijuana legislation, fully implementing consumer access to adult-use marijuana while creating a robust public health and safety framework. 

This legislation maintains the personal use provisions outlined in the 2016 ballot initiative. Adults 21 and older can use marijuana and possess up to one ounce in public and ten ounces at home. They may possess six plants per person but no more than 12 plants or ten ounces per residence.

“This bill reflects a commitment to legalizing adult-use marijuana while upholding our duty to ensure safety and effective management,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “In addition to the rigorous product testing and security measures, I believe that the independence of the Cannabis Control Commission will allow this new industry to be implemented in a safe manner that works for all residents, not just the marijuana industry.”

“This bill is a balanced approach to adult use of marijuana in Massachusetts.  We have kept the tax rate low to abolish the illicit market while implementing rigorous safeguards to protect public health and safety,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst).  “In addition, we have included meaningful provisions to ensure that communities who have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs will be able to participate in the cannabis industry and provided an easier path for local farmers and local small businesses to participate.  I am hopeful that this bill will be model legislation for other states who are contemplating legalization.”

Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro) sponsored two amendments that were included in the final version of the bill approved by the Massachusetts State Senate.

 One amendment addresses the transportation of marijuana to and from the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Because a portion of Nantucket Sound is under federal jurisdiction, where recreational marijuana remains illegal, those travelling with the substance by ferry or air could find themselves in a hazy legal situation. This amendment instructs the Cannabis Control Commission to determine ways to ensure that the Islands have convenient access to marijuana.

“Voters on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard overwhelming voted in favor of the ballot measure to approve recreational marijuana,” said Senator Cyr. “I am proud to advocate on behalf of island residents who would not have been serviced by the original legislation.”

Senator Cyr was also successful in securing an amendment that opens the marijuana market to small scale craft cultivators. The amendment lowers barriers to entry by enabling groups of small-scale growers to collaborate and share the costs associated with supplies, testing, processing, and packaging. It also includes regulations for safety, health, and security to increase consumer protection and ensure a high quality product.

“Under the bill adopted by the Senate, cultivation of craft marijuana is a critical component of the fledgling recreational industry in Massachusetts. Not only does craft cultivation decrease the influence of the existing black market and produce a high quality local product, but it also safeguards against corporate interests who are driven by the bottom line. For far flung corners of the Commonwealth – like the Cape and Islands, or the Berkshires – this amendment provides economic opportunity and dependable year-round jobs.” 

To promote strong oversight and accountability for the regulation of adult-use marijuana, this legislation creates an independent five-member Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) which will be housed under the Office of the State Treasurer. The CCC will be charged with overseeing the application and licensing process, including a review of the integrity of licensees, their financial stability and qualifications both during the application process and on an ongoing basis. It will promulgate regulations for the implementation, administration and enforcement of adult-use marijuana, and will make regular inspections of licensees. 

The CCC will study participation and, if needed, adopt diversity licensing goals to provide meaningful participation of communities disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition and enforcement and development training programs to achieve impactful industry participation by minority individuals, women and veterans. This legislation removes the head start for businesses already licensed for medical marijuana so that all individuals and businesses have a fair shot at entering this industry. The CCC will be required to encourage participation by farmers and small businesses, including providing lower priced licenses and the ability to form cooperatives to small cultivators. 

The composition of the CCC reflects the broad expertise and autonomy necessary to regulate this new industry including appointees with expertise in public health, public safety and corporate management. These appointments will be made by the governor, attorney general, treasurer, respectively.

This legislation prioritizes consumer safety and public health. As such, this bill includes the strongest testing standards in the nation and gives the CCC oversight of testing laboratories. It requires all labs to be independent from marijuana establishments and mandates alignment with pharmacy standards for purity. While the legislation maintains the personal use provisions, it also adds liquor license penalties for sales to people under 21 including social host language.

Under this legislation, the CCC will consult with the Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) to establish standards for the cultivation, processing, manufacturing and distribution of marijuana, including guidelines for food products. 

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