Massachusetts Lawmakers Reach Marijuana Compromise; Tax Raised to 20%

BOSTON, MA — After weeks of closed-door negotiations, lawmakers in Massachusetts have reached a compromise on changes to the voter-approved law that legalized marijuana in the Bay State.

The changes still need to be ratified by members of both chambers of the state legislature, which is expected later this week.

Instead of a repeal-and-replace bill proposed by the House, the compromise bill reflects an “amend and improve” approach favored by the Senate.

Much of the original ballot measure will remain intact, with the most noticeable change being the tax imposed on retail marijuana sales.

While the changes to the legalization law are not as drastic as originally proposed by the House, the tax rate on recreational cannabis will be raised significantly.

As approved by voters, retail sales of marijuana would be subject to a 3.75% statewide excise tax, combined with the 6.25% state sales tax, making the statewide tax 10%. Local communities were given the option to impose an additional two percent local tax, making the total maximum tax 12%.

The House sought to impose stiff taxes that would have raised this to a 28% minimum tax.

The compromise bill will instead raise the excise tax on marijuana from 3.75% to 10.75%, which will be added on to the state 6.25% sales tax, making the statewide marijuana tax 17%.

The compromise also increases the local tax option from two to three percent, making the statewide maximum tax 20%.

Lawmakers also compromised on the dispute over who has the right to ban or restrict marijuana related businesses. In cities in towns where a majority of voters supported Question 4, a referendum would be required to pass zoning restrictions or ban businesses.

But in the 91 municipalities in the state where a majority of residents voted against the ballot question, a referendum would not be necessary. Instead, a vote by the board of the selectmen or city council could ban marijuana retailers.

Other notable changes in the compromise bill include a provision raising the amount of decriminalized marijuana for minors under 21 from one to two ounces.

The compromise bill also makes cultivation by minors under 21 a civil offense, rather than a criminal one.

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