The Massachusetts House of Representatives on late Wednesday approved a bill that would repeal and replace the adult-use marijuana law voters passed last November and would more than double the tax rate and require that cannabis business employees be fingerprinted in the process.

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The state Senate must now work on its own version of the recreational cannabis bill. Once it’s passed, both chambers must then negotiate a compromise bill they hope to send to the governor by July 1.

The House bill, which passed 126-28, calls for:

  • Raising the tax on retail cannabis sales from 12% to 28%.
  • Background checks and fingerprinting for anyone who owns or works in licensed marijuana-related businesses.
  • Empowering municipal governments to ban or limit marijuana businesses without consulting voters. Under the voter-passed law, marijuana businesses could be banned or limited only by a local referendum.
  • The creation of two enforcement agencies. One agency would work within the Cannabis Control Commission, a five-member board that, once it’s established, will regulate recreational and medical marijuana. The other organization would be part of the state attorney general’s office.

Marijuana retailers could begin opening in the second half of 2018.

The Senate version of the rec bill – which calls for more modest revisions in the current law – would leave with voters the power to decide whether a marijuana businesses can locate in a town or city and also maintains the 12% tax rate that the voter-backed referendum envisioned.

– Associated Press