Massachusetts lawmakers strike recreational cannabis deal

Massachusetts lawmakers finalized changes to the state’s recreational marijuana law on Monday, essentially splitting the difference on their conflicting proposals on tax rates and whether voters or politicians can OK cannabis businesses.

Highlights of the deal were released by a six-member conference committee that spent several weeks trying to resolve differences between the House and Senate.

House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement that would allow retail MJ sales to be taxed at a maximum 20% rate.

The compromise language bridges the gap between a House proposal to raise the total tax on marijuana to a mandatory 28% and a Senate plan to keep the tax at a voter-approved maximum of 12%.

Under the agreement, consumers will pay a 10.75% excise tax in addition to the state’s regular 6.25% sales tax. Cities and towns will have the option of adding a 3% local tax.

Lawmakers also compromised on the dispute over local control of marijuana businesses:

  • In cities and towns where voters backed the November ballot question, a referendum would be required to ban or restrict retail marijuana stores.
  • In communities where a majority of residents voted against the ballot question, retailers could be barred by a simple vote of the board of the selectmen or city council.

The full House and Senate are expected to vote on the compromise bill later this week, with no further amendments allowed. The measure then would be sent to the governor, who campaigned against legalization but has shown a willingness to sign an adult-use measure.

Massachusetts’ adult-use sales are expected to begin in the second half of 2018.

– Associated Press