“Understanding” is pot law changes need to be done by April, GUV says

The marijuana committee would consist of six senators and 11 representatives

pot ballot

BOSTON (State House News Service) – With about 17 months until retail marijuana sales are scheduled to begin in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday said any changes to the framework for legal cannabis should be made by April to allow that deadline to be met.

After voters in November approved a ballot question legalizing the use and sale of marijuana by adults, lawmakers and Baker agreed to a six-month delay, postponing the date by which the first retail licenses may be issued to July 2018.

Legislators pointed to a need for more time to refine the law, and some have since expressed interest in changing provisions including the tax rate and limit of marijuana plants per household.

“This one’s on a relatively short clock,” Baker said during a monthly appearance on WGBH’s Boston Public Radio. “There’s a general understanding amongst the folks in the Legislature that this needs to be done by April if it’s actually going to live up to the timeframe and the schedule that’s associated with implementing it, on sort of going live with retail on July 1 in ’18 instead of January 1.”

In a Dec. 28 statement on the six-month implementation delay, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg also announced plans to establish a Committee on Marijuana in “the coming weeks.” Members of the committee, who have not yet been announced, will be appointed by DeLeo, Rosenberg and minority leaders Rep. Brad Jones and Sen. Bruce Tarr, according to the statement.

Proposed joint rules scheduled to be taken up in the Senate Thursday list a marijuana committee as one of 27 joint legislative committees. Like most of the joint committees, the marijuana committee would consist of six senators and 11 representatives, according to the draft rules.

DeLeo and Rosenberg have both said they hope to see new marijuana legislation signed within six months, a longer timeframe than the one Baker suggested.

At least 61 bills have been filed in the House and 25 in the Senate dealing with marijuana sales, homegrowing procedures, packaging, youth education, oversight and other matters related to the new industry and its regulatory structure.

Baker opposed the legalization ballot question. He has called the delay “perfectly appropriate” and has said he expected Beacon Hill officials to be “spending some time dealing with the marijuana issue” during the first few months of the year.

Baker said Monday that laws passed by ballot typically change over time and called it the Legislature’s “purview to take a look at this and to do, based on what they’ve seen in Colorado and in Washington and other places, what they think makes the most sense here in Massachusetts.”

“That whole notion that, you know, the thing is written in concrete I think is a bit much, but there’s no question that the will of the people needs to be honored and represented,” Baker said.