By Jamie Parker
One of the most talked about questions of this election year for Massachusetts is Question 4: Legalization, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana. A “yes” vote on this question would, “allow persons 21 and older to possess, use, and transfer marijuana concentrate (including edible products) and to cultivate marijuana, all in limited amounts, and would provide for the regulation and taxation of commercial sale of marijuana and marijuana products.” A “no” vote would keep the laws on marijuana in Massachusetts the same as they are now. So let’s take a deeper look into what the “Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act,” the “Marijuana Tax,” and the “Regulation of Use and Distribution of Marijuana NOT Medically Prescribed.”
The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act
The purpose of this act is to control the production and distribution of marijuana. The act works on a system that licenses, regulates, and taxes businesses involved. The system is very similar to that of businesses that deal with Alcohol. It would allow adults over the age of 21 to purchase, and even grow a limited amount of marijuana. The act would have its own advisory board, the “Cannabis Advisory Board.” The board would make recommendations on the regulation of marijuana. The Cannabis Advisory Board would consist of 15 board members assigned by the governor. There would be one expert on marijuana cultivation, one expert in marijuana retailing, one expert in marijuana product manufacturing, one expert in marijuana testing, one board member or officer of a medical marijuana treatment center, one registered medical marijuana patient, one person to represent recreational marijuana consumers, two experts in public health, two experts in law enforcement, two experts in social welfare/justice, and two attorneys with experience with marijuana related cases. Each member will serve a term of two years. The members will not be paid for their work, but they will be reimbursed for expenses they run into while performing advisory board duties.
One of the major arguments in favor of legalization is the potential tax revenue the state would gain. The excise tax for the sale of marijuana and marijuana products would be 3.75% of the total price of the sale. However, on top of that, each city or town has the right to impose its own sales tax on top of that of up to 2%. This collected tax revenue could be used towards things like improving our education system, and the infrastructure around the state.
Regulation of the Use and Distribution of Marijuana NOT Medically Prescribed
In this section, we’ll go over the different regulations, and limitations that will be put into place if legalization is passed. Just like alcohol and guns, marijuana will have its own rules and requirements. These are some of the major limitations: Much like alcohol, it will be illegal to operate any sort or heavy machinery/ motor vehicles under the influence. Also the consumption of marijuana would be illegal on the public or private grounds of any educational facility where grades 1 through 12 are taught, and any negligent conduct would be treated very similarly to that of the current public intoxication laws. A marijuana dispensary will not be permitted to open within 500 feet of a school serving grades K through 12.
As far as regulation goes, here are some of the major points. Marijuana establishments could pay up to $3000 for the application to become a licensed dispensary. If their application is accepted, the license itself will cost the owners another $15,000 to obtain. Dispensaries will be require to have certain security measures as well. This includes actual security guards, specific lighting, video and alarm requirements, and secure storage for the marijuana. There will be random testing of samples of marijuana to ensure that all marijuana is labeled, and advertised correctly. There will be restrictions on the advertising to marijuana to avoid being attractive eto children. There are also a few rules for the personal use of marijuana. An individual may have up to 10 ounces of marijuana in their person residence, but may only purchase 1 ounce at a time.
For more information on the legalization of recreational marijuana, please read the Massachusetts Information for Voters 2016 Ballot Questions booklet that is free, and given to every registered voter.