MA House lawmakers approve recreational pot law overhaul bill

BOSTON (WPRI) — The Massachusetts House of Representatives has passed a revised version of the state’s new recreational marijuana law.

The amended bill was approved by a vote of 126-28 Wednesday. The revised bill still legalizes recreational pot use for adults 21 years and older, but it comes with some tighter controls.

Among the major changes: More than doubling the tax on retail marijuana sales from 12 percent to 28 percent.

It also calls for more stringent background checks and fingerprinting for people who own or work in licensed marijuana-related businesses.

The amended bill would also give locally elected leaders the power to ban pot shops from entering their communities.

Opponents of the revised bill protested on Beacon Hill ahead of yesterday’s vote. They argued lawmakers are ignoring what the voters want.

“What market would we have if they [community leaders] all say no [to pot shops]?” said Ulysses Youngblood. “It’s just like we didn’t even vote for legalization, so it kind of just, it’s a reverse of what we wanted.”

Supporters say the revisions are sensible, practical, and necessary for public safety and consumer protections.

“You want to be high when you’re starting off regulating a new industry, you don’t want to be short on revenue,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mark Cusak of Braintree.

The Massachusetts Senate will take up a separate, but similar bill Thursday, that would make fewer changes to the current law.

The House and Senate will then begin negotiating and compromising on a combined version, expected to be unveiled by the end of next week.