Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday signed a law pushing back the schedule for retail marijuana operations in Massachusetts by six months, a move announced as about a dozen protesters gathered outside the State House to condemn the delay.
Whisked through the Legislature during sessions attended by a handful of lawmakers Wednesday, the law extends deadlines set when voters in November approved the legalization and regulation of adult use of marijuana through a ballot question.
"Far from respecting the will of the voters, they don't even respect the legislative process, the democracy, the laws in Massachusetts, or anything else, and for what?" said Andy Gaus, the press secretary for the cannabis law reform coalition MassCann/NORML.
The legalization ballot question passed on Nov. 8 with nearly 54 percent of the vote. Lawmakers soon after began expressing interest in altering aspects of the regulatory structure set under the law and suggesting a need for additional time to do so.
While the provisions that took effect Dec. 15 — allowing possession, use, home-growing and gifting of marijuana by adults 21 and over — remain unchanged, the first retail marijuana licenses now must be issued by July 2018 instead of January 2018.
Treasurer Deb Goldberg will have until Sept. 1, 2017 to appoint members to a new Cannabis Control Commission, and the commission will have until March 15, 2018 to have initial regulations in place.
Lawmakers plan to create a new committee to draft additional marijuana legislation, which legislative leaders said they hope to pass within six months.
"The Baker-Polito Administration has been clear that it shares the Legislature's desire to thoroughly prepare for launching an entirely new industry distributing a controlled substance and is committed to adhering to the will of the voters by implementing the new law as effectively and responsibly as possible," Baker spokeswoman Lizzy Guyton said in a statement.
Baker and House Speaker Robert DeLeo opposed legalization, as did most members of the 200-person Legislature. Senate President Stan Rosenberg said he voted for the ballot question but has criticized some of its provisions, including the 3.75 percent tax rate and the home-grow limit of 12 plants per household.
Joseph Gilmore, who leads the UMass Boston Chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said he was not surprised to see the delay instituted. He said postponing legal sales would send buyers to the black market instead.
"I knew that they were against it from the beginning, but we still have to fight for what we voted for," Gilmore said.
Beth Waterfall, the founder of Massachusetts Mothers for Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana, said she was bothered that it will now be an extra six months before new jobs are created in the pot industry and before the state begins collecting tax revenues from marijuana sales.
"Massachusetts does not have coffers of extra money to let this type of delay happen," she said. "We need jobs in Massachusetts."
This article was originally published on December 30, 2016.
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