The Massachusetts legislature continues to chip away at Question 4, the ballot question that made marijuana legal for adult use throughout the Commonwealth. In December, a handful of lawmakers voted in an informal session to delay the start of retail sales. Now, new bills filed by Sen. Jason Lewis and Rep. Hannah Kane propose major changes to the law, including a reduction in the amount of marijuana adults can possess in their home. While opponents of the proposed legislation see it as subverting the wishes of the voters, state officials say the new bills would provide necessary limits on Question 4.
Below is a summary of key changes in the proposed bills.
- Possession and home growing. Currently, Question 4 allows adults to possess a maximum of 1 ounce of marijuana in public and 10 ounces at home. The proposed legislation would keep the public cap, but drop home possession from 10 ounces to 2 ounces. It would also drop the number of marijuana plants per household from 12 to 6.
- Municipal regulation. Under the current law, municipalities cannot take certain regulatory steps unless local voters pass a referendum. For instance, a referendum is required both to ban marijuana establishments, and to reduce the number of marijuana retailers below a certain threshold. The proposed legislation would allow cities and towns to regulate without holding a special election.
- The original law set marijuana retail sales to begin on January 2018, a date the Massachusetts legislature has already extended to July 2018. The new legislation would delay the sale of edibles and concentrates an additional two years.
- The Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). Under the current law, the CCC consists of a three-member body appointed and overseen by the state treasurer. The proposed bills would make the CCC a five-member independent entity, similar to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
- Question 4 directed the CCC to regulate marijuana packaging and labelling. The proposed legislation sets certain minimum packaging requirements, requiring that packages be gray, opaque, child-resistant, and free of any cartoon characters or bright colors.
- Question 4 set a 3.75% excise tax on marijuana. While there is widespread agreement that the legislature will increase the rate, it remains to be seen what the specific percentage will be. Several bills have been introduced on the topic, many of which call for studies on the costs of implementing the new law before a decision is made.
- Driving under the influence. Question 4 did not impact existing Massachusetts OUI laws—driving under the influence of marijuana remains illegal. The proposed legislation underscores this point by calling for studies into a THC impairment threshold similar to the 0.08% alcohol limit, as well as sobriety tests for those suspected of driving under the influence.
- Research; youth education campaigns. Finally, the proposed legislation calls for a research program to track the social and economic impacts of marijuana legalization, as well as a campaign to educate youth on the dangers of marijuana. The programs would be funded by taxes on marijuana sales.