California firms up marijuana rules, will allow deliveries

MA marijuana advocates were enraged on Wednesday, saying taxes on Bay State marijuana could skyrocket to 56 percent under a State House plan to overhaul the legalization law approved by voters.

The law, written by legalization advocates aiming to tamp down the black market, included a total tax rate of 12 percent.

Under the ballot question, it's left to a local referendum by voters to decide if pot shops are allowed within a city or town.

California would set standards for organic marijuana, allow pot samples at county fairs and permit home deliveries under legislation set to be considered by lawmakers Thursday as the state prepares for next year's start of legal marijuana sales.

MA lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Baker have already made changes to the voter-approved law: In January, they signed off on a six-month delay on retail pot shops, pushing the date to July 2018.

The bill is only in the first stages of progression although it has already incited anger from advocates of the bill who are saying "it insults voters" and strong concern from lawmakers who are saying it will make sure that the black market continues to thrive since residents will seek the most reasonable and affordable option.

Marijuana advocates have argued there shouldn't be any changes to the voter-approved law until the new industry gets up and running in MA.

"Earlier Wednesday, the state Senate's point person on marijuana policy, Senator Patricia D. Jehlen, blasted the House bill, saying it directly assaults the will of the voters and is a prescription for increasing the illicit market". "No other zoning issue is subject to a referendum".

Those opposed to recreational marijuana want lawmakers to restrict, if not set aside, numerous controversial provisions of the new law.

The tax portion of bill appears to have gone through some revisions in recent days as House leadership vetted the final proposal before its release. The bill, however, shifts that decision instead to local elected officials, such as a city council or board of selectman.

"The House proposal in no way improves the measure passed by voters", Borghesani said in a statement.

"It Insults Voters " The proposed retail tax increase for cannabis in MA is dramatic to say the least.

The provisions were tucked into the state budget agreement between Brown and top legislative Democrats announced this week following months of negotiations with businesses operating illegally or in the legal medical marijuana field and investors who want to enter the nation's largest legal marijuana market.

The House proposal encountered turbulence as it emerged out of the Legislature's Marijuana Policy Committee on Wednesday morning.

"The House proposal not only disrespects the will of the voters", Jim Borghesani, spokesman for the group, told in an email.

Senators could craft their own version of a re-write, meaning a small team of House-Senate negotiators would then have to come together and hammer out a compromise bill to send to the governor's desk.

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