The Massachusetts Senate passed, by a 30-5 vote, legislation to ensure the public health and safety of patient and consumer access to medical and adult use of marijuana in the Commonwealth.
“This legislation takes important steps to shrink the black market, promote a diverse and responsible industry, and establish strong public health and safety protections, especially for our youth, while respecting the will and intent of the voters,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “Further, by mandating rigorous research and data collection to inform public policy, as well as a commission on drugged driving, the legislation also lays the groundwork for sound lawmaking around marijuana policy in the future.”
The Senate bill would strengthen oversight. The legislation: expands the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) to five members: one appointment each from the Treasurer, Governor, and Attorney General, with two additional consensus appointments; establishes a commission on the effects of impaired driving and how to detect impaired drivers; mandates clear advertising, packaging, and labeling standards while preserving flexibility for the CCC to adjust to changing industry practices; implements a strong research agenda that tracks marijuana use trends, economic trends and impacts, monitors the elimination of the illicit market, tracks employment trends in the marijuana industry, and compiles data on any continued enforcement of Chapter 94C crimes related to marijuana; and, creates public awareness campaigns to reduce youth usage, reduce impaired driving, and education about responsible usage.
The bill would expand economic opportunities for all. The legislation: removes the head start for businesses already licensed for medical marijuana so that all individuals and businesses have a fair shot at entering this industry; allows for the production and sale of industrial hemp under the Department of Agriculture; and, requires the CCC to encourage participation by farmers and small businesses, including providing lower priced licenses and the ability to form cooperatives to small cultivators.
The bill would promote justice. The legislation ensures that possession of marijuana by those under 21 is treated the same as underage alcohol possession, and promotes opportunities in communities impacted by the War on Drugs.
The bill would protect and preserve the medical marijuana program. The legislation: protects the ability of the medical marijuana program to serve patients and reduces bureaucracy by carefully transferring the oversight of the medical marijuana program to the CCC over the next 18 months; institutes significant privacy protections for patients participating in the medical marijuana program; and, helps current medical marijuana facilities to compete by allowing them to convert into for-profit entities.
Senator Lewis was pleased to have a number of amendments he proposed ultimately adopted into the final Senate bill. Among them: requirements were included that packaging be opaque, child-resistant, and re-sealable, and a prohibition was instituted on knock-offs of existing products; requirements were included for labeling to include key health warnings and symbols to prevent consumption by minors; marketing and advertising restrictions were strengthened, with the burden of proof on the industry that ads cannot be targeted to minors; and, key funding was directed toward substance use disorder prevention for schools and community coalitions.
With the Massachusetts House of Representative having recently passed its own marijuana legislation, a conference committee comprised of both House and Senate members will now work out the differences between the Senate bill and the House bill. Their compromise bill will return to the House and Senate for passage before heading to the Governor’s desk.