Massachusetts: Senate Leader Says Lawmakers Shoudn't "Dilly Dally" Looking At New Marijuana Law
By Derrick Stanley
Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, said on Thursday the initiative to legalize Massachusetts marijuana for recreational use that voters approved this week will need improvements to address such issues as taxes on marijuana sales, driving while high, and edible pot products.
Rosenberg, a supporter of Question 4, said issues related to the new law could be addressed soon after the Legislature begins its new session in January.
He told reporters he believed most voters approved of legalization “in principle.” He noted the measure was drafted more than a year ago, well before a report produced by a special Senate committee that visited Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana.
“The Legislature has the right to revisit policy matters that were unaddressed or not addressed as well as they could,” he said.
But the group that spearheaded the ballot question pushed back, arguing that lawmakers shouldn’t move too quickly to make revisions to the law.
“I think this is too rushed,” said Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for Yes on 4, in a telephone interview. “The Legislature has a role to play, but I think they should respect the will of the voters, let regulators do their jobs and then determine what should be done, if anything.”
Rosenberg, however, said the state should not “dilly dally” because such delays would be disrespectful to voters.
A 3.75 percent surtax on marijuana sales, which would be assessed on top of Massachusetts’ 6.25 percent sales tax, would be lower than any other state that has legalized recreational marijuana and may not cover all the costs of regulation and law enforcement, Rosenberg said.
He has not proposed an alternative figure, but the Senate panel’s report recommends an excise tax of at least 5 percent along with a marijuana-specific sales tax of between 10 percent and 20 percent.
One area where legislative comment might be welcomed, Borghesani said, was in crafting tougher rules around driving while under the influence of marijuana. He said lawmakers could have addressed that issue after possession of the drug was decriminalized in 2008, but never did.