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Lawmakers Face Dueling Versions of Marijuana Legalization

As state lawmakers try to reconcile competing versions of Massachusetts' marijuana legalization bill, it now includes an amendment that promotes racial diversity in the pot business. (Fimansyah/Flickr)
As state lawmakers try to reconcile competing versions of Massachusetts' marijuana legalization bill, it now includes an amendment that promotes racial diversity in the pot business. (Fimansyah/Flickr)
June 26, 2017

BOSTON – State lawmakers are working against an end-of-month deadline to try to reconcile two competing versions of the marijuana legalization bill.

The House was the latest to act on the measure, and Essex Rep. Frank Moran, who chairs the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, says they scored a win, by making sure the legislation contains diversity licensing goals. He says it also has programs to recruit and train minorities and women to own or work in marijuana businesses.

"We wanted the bill to promote participation from communities disproportionately impacted by this cannabis prohibition and enforcement; so we fought the bill to make sure communities of color are inclusive in this bill," he explains.

Supporters of the higher tax rate say the money is needed to pay for the added cost of marijuana regulation. Lawmakers have until June 30 to craft a compromise.

The House bill, approved by a wide margin last week, would raise the tax on retail marijuana sales from 12 percent to 28 percent.

Moran says his caucus was shooting for a 10 percent tax, out of concerns the higher tax could drive consumers back to illegal dealers.

"You know, at the end of the day, it was a little higher than we expected," he says. "But you know, we were thankful that the Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader were able to work with that, and get a few of our amendments included."

For those hoping to smoke weed in public, the House version of the bill is a little gray on that matter. It currently includes a $100 fine for consuming or smoking marijuana in a public place, "in a manner that is not authorized by law, regulation or ordinance."

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA