Legislators in a number of states are pushing forward measures to delay the enactment of several voter-initiated marijuana laws.
In Arkansas, House lawmakers are moving forward with legislation, House Bill 1026, to postpone the deadline for establishing the state’s new medical marijuana program by 60 days. Fifty-three percent of voters approved Issue 6 on Election Day, which called on lawmakers to regulate the production and dispensing of medical cannabis within 120 days.
In Maine, leading House and Senate lawmakers have endorsed emergency legislation, LD 88, to delay retail marijuana sales by at least three months. Under the voter-initiated law, rules regulating the commercial marijuana market are supposed to be operational by January 1, 2018. (By contrast, separate provisions permitting adults to possess and grow specific quantities of cannabis take effect on January 30, 2017.)
In North Dakota, Senate lawmakers unanimously passed emergency legislation, Senate Bill 2154, to postpone the deadline for the enactment of the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act. Sixty-four percent of voters backed the measure, which gave lawmakers a 90-day window to regulate the distribution of medical marijuana.
Massachusetts’ lawmakers previously enacted legislation imposing a six-month delay on the licensed production and retail sales of marijuana. Legislators are also debating making additional changes to the law, including raising the proposed retail sales tax and limiting the number of plants an adult may grow at home.
In Florida, health regulators are also calling for significant changes to Amendment 2, which passed with 71 percent of the vote.
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri strongly criticized the proposed changes and delays, calling them “an affront to the democratic process.” He added: “Voters have lived with the failings of marijuana prohibition for far too long already. Lawmakers have a responsibility to abide by the will of the voters and to do so in a timely manner.”
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 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.
Massachusetts today became the sixth US state to enact legislation eliminating criminal penalties specific to the adult possession and personal use of cannabis. The law change ends over a century-long policy of criminal cannabis prohibition in the Bay State. Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to criminalize the use of marijuana — a policy it first enacted in 1911.
“By legalizing the adult use of marijuana, Massachusetts will shrink the illicit black market, generate millions in tax revenue, end the arrest of otherwise law abiding citizens, and better enable society to keep marijuana out of the hands of children,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said.
Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington have previously adopted voter-initiated laws legalizing the private consumption of cannabis by adults. The District of Columbia also permits adults to legally possess and grow personal use quantities of marijuana in private residences.
On Election Day, 54 percent of Massachusetts voters approved Question 4, The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act. Question 4 permits adults who are not participating in the state’s existing medical cannabis program to legally grow up to six plants, including all of the harvest from those plants, and to possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce and/or up to 5 grams of concentrate; in addition, adults may legally possess up to ten ounces of marijuana flower in their home). Public consumption of cannabis remains a civil violation.
Separate provisions in the statute also license the commercial cannabis production and retail sales of cannabis. Those regulations do not take effect until January 1, 2018. However, some state lawmakers have suggested delaying this timeline, raising the state’s proposed sales tax rate, and amending the state’s new home cultivation guidelines — proposals that NORML opposes.
According to the Associated Press, voters in Massachusetts have approved Question 4, legalizing the adult use of marijuana for adults. The AP’s final vote count is 54 to 46 percent.
“Massachusetts voters historically have embraced progressive marijuana policies, having previously voted twice to amend various elements of marijuana prohibition,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “It is hardly a surprise that they have done so again. Question 4 is a common sense alternative that comports with public and scientific consensus and that reflects marijuana’s rapidly changing cultural status.”
Question 4 permits adults who are not participating in the state’s medical cannabis program to legally grow (up to six plants, including all of the harvest from those plants) and to possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce and/or up to 5 grams of concentrate; in addition, adults may legally possess up to ten ounces of marijuana flower in their home) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. The law imposes a 3.75 percent excise tax on commercial marijuana sales. Under the law, localities have the authority to regulate, limit, or prohibit the operation of marijuana businesses.
The new law takes effect on December 15, 2016. Regulators are scheduled to begin accepting applications from marijuana-related businesses on October 1, 2017. You can read the full text of Question 4 here.
“In the face of inaction from elected officials, voters in the Bay State sent a resounding message this evening that it is time to move away from our failed, racist policy of marijuana prohibition and towards a safer, regulated industry,” said Erik Altieri, NORML’s new Executive Director. “By legalizing the adult use of marijuana, Massachusetts will shrink the illicit black market, generate millions in tax revenue, end the arrest of otherwise law abiding citizens, and better enable society to keep marijuana out of the hands of children.”
Hi, I’m Rick Steves, TV travel show host and a proud member of NORML’s Board of Directors. I’ve just returned from doing a barnstorming speaking tour in both Maine and Massachusetts to help build support for their legalization initiatives. It was an exhilarating week, meeting and talking with the good folks in those states, getting lots of great press, and feeling the excitement build in advance of what we expect will be victories in both states.
I’m investing my time and money in these latest state initiatives because I’ve seen first-hand the damage done to so many good, hard-working Americans because of a marijuana arrest. And we’ve got such a powerful message to share now that we have a solid legalization track record in my home state of Washington and in Colorado and Oregon: teen use does not go up, crime does not go up, and DUIs do not go up. The only thing that goes up is tax revenue and citizens exercising their civil liberty to smoke marijuana recreationally.
Our political opponents and the big money special interests they represent, including both the alcohol and the pharmaceutical industries, are investing millions of dollars to stop us:
- $3.5 million from Casino Magnate Sheldon Adelson to oppose legalization in Arizona, Nevada and Massachusetts.
- $500,000 from opioid producer Insys to fight legalization in Arizona.
- $75,000 from the Beer Distributors of Massachusetts and the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Massachusetts to oppose legalization in Massachusetts.
- $10,000 from the Arizona Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association to oppose legalization in Arizona.
And that’s just to name a few.
So please, match my support and make a donation to NORML today and help us ensure that we not only win these current battles, but that we continue to expand the list of legalization states all across this country in 2017 and beyond.
Together, we have the power to end marijuana prohibition once and for all.
Let’s do it. Thanks!