Massachusetts House and Senate approve final bill to change marijuana ballot law

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BOSTON (WWLP)—The House and Senate approved a final bill to revise the state’s voter-approved pot law.

The legislation includes a change in the marijuana tax rate and local control over banning pot shops in cities and towns.

Voters legalized recreational marijuana last November, but you still can’t legally buy it in Massachusetts. Lawmakers hope to clarify some of the confusion, and regulate this new industry with changes to the ballot law.

The House voted 136-11 and Senate, without debate, voted to approved a final marijuana bill Wednesday.

“Acceding to the will of the voters, but also making sure that the people of the commonwealth were protected and I think that that’s just exactly what this bill does,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo, (D) Winthrop.

The final bill calls for a maximum 20 percent tax rate on pot sales, a higher rate than the voter-approved 12 percent tax. That 20 percent includes: a 10.75 percent excise tax, the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax, and a 3 percent local option tax.

But the will of the voters will only partially stand in the final bill when it comes to restricting pot shops in cities and towns. Local leaders will be able to ban pot shops in cities and towns that voted against legalizing marijuana.

A voter referendum will be required to restrict sales in towns where the majority approved recreational pot.

“What we kept hearing was don’t undermine, don’t undo what the people wanted,” said State Rep. John Scibak, (D) South Hadley. “The question was are you in favor of recreational marijuana yes or no and I think we’re still recognizing (CUE) that; we’re still honoring that.”

The bill is expected to head to Governor Charlie Baker’s desk Thursday. He has 10 days to review and act on the bill.

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