July 19, 2017

Legal marijuana deal includes 20 percent tax, significant shifts from ballot law [+ video]

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Sam Doran / State House News Service

House Majority Leader Ron Mariano and Sen. Pat Jehlen, lead negotiators on the Legislature's compromise marijuana bill, explained details of the final bill Monday afternoon alongside fellow conferees.

BOSTON — Almost three weeks later than they had hoped, lawmakers struck an accord Monday on marijuana policy that would tax retail pot sales at a maximum rate of 20 percent and paves the way for those sales to begin in just less than a year.

House and Senate negotiators agreed after about three weeks of talks to a compromise bill that is expected to emerge for up-or-down votes in both branches today. The bill, as with all conference committee reports, will not be subject to amendment.

In addition to hiking the tax rate and altering the composition of the panel that will oversee the budding marijuana industry here, the deal also calls for an unusual strategy: linking the mechanism for banning future marijuana shops to how communities voted on the marijuana ballot law last year. And despite being almost three weeks late, legislative leaders said, the bill keeps retail marijuana shops on track for a July 2018 opening.

“We have protected the right of adults to grow, possess, and use marijuana. To give them access to a safe, legal supply, the bill removes barriers to the development of a legal market,” Sen. Patricia Jehlen, the Marijuana Policy Committee co-chair and lead Senate negotiator, said in a statement. “It protects the rights of medical marijuana patients, and gives opportunity to farmers and to people who have been harmed by the War on Drugs. The tax rate remains among the lowest in the country, and the same as in Oregon, often seen as successful.”

Watch: Pot panel talks compromise

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