State Lawmakers Could Push Back Pot Legalization Before the New Year

They aren't ruling out a vote in the coming days.

Marijuana crop growing indoors via Shutterstock

Photo via Shutterstock

Soon, legal marijuana will be the law of the land in Massachusetts. But when remains an open question.

After much talk about pushing back the schedule for the recreational pot law to give regulators more time to prepare, lawmakers now say they could start passing delays any day now. State officials say they might seek to slow things down by the New Year, before the Legislature resumes its formal sessions in January.

“We’ve had discussions about delaying some of the days to give us some time to fine-tune the bill, and in the next few weeks we may have to make a final decision on that,” Senate President Stan Rosenberg said Monday afternoon. “But if it’s going to be a delay, it’s going to be a very time-limited delay.”

That may, or may not, mean pushing back the December 15 start date for the first phase of the law’s rollout. On that day, it is supposed to become legal for adults to use and grow limited amounts of marijuana at home, but not to buy or sell it. The first recreational pot shops are supposed to open at the beginning of 2018.

Both Rosenberg and House Speaker Bob DeLeo say pushing back the December 15 launch of the law is less likely.

“I think that would probably be a little more difficult, shall we say, to delay. Anything thereafter, I think, would be much easier to delay, “DeLeo says.

Any decisions the Legislature seeks to make during informal sessions would require unanimous support, as any lawmaker can block a bill during that time.

Treasurer Deb Goldberg, who will oversee the three-member, pot industry-monitoring Cannabis Control Commission, has said she needs more time to get ready for when the first legal pot retail shops are slated to open. The Legislature has also said it is interested in tweaking the law, for example by raising taxes on the drug.

Officials have yet to certify the results of the election, which is required in order for the law to take effect.

Rosenberg and DeLeo’s comments came after a hearing on the outlook for state revenues, which is not great. Revenue growth has been slow.

Jim Borghesani, the former communications director for the Yes on 4 campaign, said lawmakers would do well to consider the new tax money the state will enjoy once marijuana sales are legalized, before they think about delays.

“It’s encouraging that these leaders seem to be indicating that there will be no attempt to delay the December 15 possession and homegrow provisions,” he said in an emailed statement. “But given how the state’s precarious fiscal condition featured so prominently in their remarks, it seems counterintuitive that they would consider pushing back the post-December 15 timelines and in doing so push back a significant new revenue stream.”