MA talks on recreational cannabis compromise to resume Wednesday

A group of Massachusetts lawmakers seeking to hammer out a compromise over the state’s recreational marijuana law plan to resume negotiations Wednesday.

The six-member panel of House and Senate negotiators failed to meet a self-imposed deadline Friday to get a final bill to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk.

Democratic Rep. Mark Cusack, the chief House negotiator, said he is “hopeful” for an agreement. A spokeswoman for the Senate’s lead negotiator, Democrat Patricia Jehlen, said the conferees “are making good progress.” However, neither side offered a timetable for when the talks might conclude.

While lawmakers from both chambers had called for changes to the law that legalized adult-use recreational marijuana, the House and Senate took dramatically different approaches.

The House voted to repeal the law and replace it with a more expansive bill that hiked the tax rate on retail marijuana sales from a maximum 12% to a required 28%. The measure also gave municipalities authority to ban retail marijuana shops from opening within their communities.

The Senate voted to keep the current law in place with more modest revisions. The Senate bill held the tax rate at 12% and kept the power to prohibit marijuana stores in the hands of voters.

If no deal is struck, the voter-approved law would remain in effect.

The law calls for the state treasurer to appoint a three-member Cannabis Control Commission to oversee the legal marijuana industry, but lawmakers have sought to expand the commission and make it more independent.

– Associated Press