Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo pulled the recreational cannabis bill from consideration yesterday, following pushback from advocates that the proposal would, in fact, raise cannabis taxes 56 percent, according to a MassLive report. On the surface, the bill appeared to double taxes on recreational cannabis products from 12 percent to 28 percent; however the measure adds a 21.75 tax from wholesaler to retailer, and 28 percent from retailer to customer – totaling 56 percent including state sales taxes.
In an interview with reporters following his decision, DeLeo said the bill needed a “clean up” but did not specify that it was being pulled over the tax concerns of advocates. He said the legislation, which he called “terrific,” would be taken up next week.
“I think it’s important that with a bill of this magnitude that we try to get it right, or as close as right the first time,” De Leo said. “So I’d rather do that than…try to rush it.”
Jim Borghesani, spokesman for the Yes on 4 campaign, which backed the ballot initiative in the state, said the bill was written in a “rapid and sloppy” manner and only “encourages the illicit market.”
The legislation was crafted behind closed doors by the House Marijuana Policy Committee.
“The House bill, they set out to improve what was passed in November – they did the exact opposite. This is a much weaker regulatory system that they put forward,” he said, adding that he believes the compounding tax structure was a mistake. “It’s the worst example of Massachusetts lawmaking. What we’ve seen is a bill that was written in the dark, behind closed doors. Not even the members of the committee knew what was in the bill.”
Rep. Mark Cusack, who is credited with authoring the legislation, defended the measure, saying that his goal was “to get this right for the commonwealth, and the people, and the industry.”
The Senate could decide to write their own version of the legislation and work with the House on a compromise measure to send to Gov. Charlie Baker. The July 1, 2018 target date for adult-use sales remains intact.