The Massachusetts Senate passed its marijuana bill on Thursday, a revised version that sticks closer to the original provisions laid out in the referendum voters supported last November.
Compared to the House bill passed on Wednesday, the Senate’s version makes less severe changes, specifically to the rate at which marijuana would be taxed: the Senators voted 30-5 in favor of the bill, which keeps an original 12 percent tax rate that would vary by local communities.
The House’s version of revised pot legislation repealed what voters approved of last fall, taxing the legal substance at a total of 28 percent. Legalization advocates said the high tax rate would keep the black market of marijuana sales thriving.
Sen. Patricia Jehlen, a Somerville Democrat and co-chair of the Legislature’s Marijuana Policy Committee, said the Senate’s legislation aims to maintain the will of the voters, reduce marijuana use by youths and restore “people and communities who have been damaged by the drug war,” according to State House News.
The legislation also includes an amendment by Sen. Joseph Boncore, of Winthrop, which erases past marijuana possession records.
The Senate bill requires town referendums in order to build marijuana shops and facilities. That requirement is yet another contrast to the House legislation, which removed the will of towns to vote on individual marijuana bans in their municipalities.
The revised marijuana legislation cleared by the Senate on Thursday was well-received by “Yes on 4” activists, including spokesperson Jim Borghesani, who wrote the original provisions passed by voters.
“The last two days featured two vastly different legislative approaches to voters’ judgment,” Borghesani said in an email. “The Senate respected their judgment and tweaked it. The House rejected their judgment and rewrote it.”
The next step is three lawmakers from the House and the Senate hashing out a final bill before sending a compromise to Gov. Charlie Baker.
Massachusetts marijuana tax more than doubles in House-approved bill