The Bills That Could Reshape the Marijuana Law Have Been Filed

Fewer plants, fewer ounces, and a delay on edibles are all on the table this year.

Marijuana crop growing indoors via Shutterstock

Marijuana crop growing indoors via Shutterstock

A bundle of bills that have been filed at the State House could, in significant ways, reshape the marijuana law voters approved in November.

The proposals on the table this year include a two-year moratorium on sales and manufacturing of edible and concentrated marijuana products, as well as a reduction in the number of plants you can grow (from 12 to six per household) and the amount of marijuana you can keep at home (from 10 ounces to two).

The bills filed by a Friday deadline for legislation also include new regulations on advertising, marketing, packaging, and labeling the drug when it’s sold in stores, and a bill that would make it easier for cities and towns to opt out of marijuana shops entirely.

It’s not certain how much of the legislation will pass, or even which proposed tweaks to the law will be debated. Today was simply the first step for lawmakers who have said they would pursue changes to the law they believe will make it safer and more sensible. It became legal to possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes in Massachusetts on December 15, and none of the bills would change that.

Fourteen of the bills were filed by Sen. Jason Lewis, a leader of the effort to quash Question 4, the marijuana ballot initiative that ultimately passed by a margin of 54-46. Lewis took a group of senators on a trip to Colorado last year to study legal marijuana in that state, and he’s being strongly considered to be part of a marijuana committee on Beacon Hill.

In a statement, he pledged to “responsibly and safely implement” the new law.

“The people of Massachusetts made their voices clear when they voted on November 8 to legalize recreational marijuana, and the legislature must respect the will of the people,” Lewis said in a statement to the State House News Service on Friday. “I am fully committed to moving forward as quickly as possible to responsibly and safely implement a legal recreational marijuana market in Massachusetts.”

Other bills, backed by Lewis, would let people jailed for marijuana possession under the old pot law petition to have those convictions expunged from their records, and would use some of the pot tax revenue to fund studies on the drug’s impact on Massachusetts and pay for an education campaign for young people.

Already, legislators have voted to delay implementation of the marijuana law. In an informal session over the holiday break, they rushed through a measure to push back the date at which the state’s first pot retail stores can open, from January to July.

The filing of the bills today was met with a stern rebuke from Jim Borghesani, the spokesman for the group that advocated for passage of Question 4 last year. He said the bills constituted an overreach by lawmakers and “go too far in unwinding the will of the people.” In a statement, Borghesani also targeted Lewis, the senator, by name.

“Many of the bills filed by Sen. Lewis show little respect for the 1.8 million Massachusetts voters who decided to end prohibition in the Commonwealth,” he said. “These proposals go too far in unwinding the will of the people and provide further evidence that Sen. Lewis, who was a leading opponent of Question 4, would be an inappropriate choice to chair the proposed special committee on marijuana.”