Massachusetts suspends rec marijuana legalization talks

Massachusetts’ House Speaker suspended negotiations on a recreational marijuana legalization measure, suggesting those talks were distracting lawmakers from finalizing another bill on the state’s budget.

The move on Wednesday night could further delay passage and implementation of an adult-use cannabis law, which state legislators have been working on since 54% of state voters passed a measure last November.

House lawmakers voted to repeal and replace the voter-backed measure with a more restrictive and tax-heavy bill, while state senators passed a measure with more modest changes that has been endorsed by cannabis advocates.

A committee of six lawmakers – three from each chamber – has been trying to forge a compromise bill but missed a self-imposed June 30 deadline.

“To remove any distractions, and because of the number of critical needs that hinge on our budget … I have asked that the House members of the marijuana conference committee suspend negotiations until the budget is complete,” House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in a statement, according to The Boston Globe.

Cannabis advocates and State Senate President Stanley Rosenberg criticized the move, the newspaper reported.

“The Senate has not and will not link the budget and marijuana negotiations. Period,” Rosenberg said in a statement. “The Senate is fully committed to continuing negotiations on both the budget and marijuana legislation simultaneously.”

The original voter-approved measure will become law without a legislative compromise.