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Massachusetts legislators get little notice before vote to delay retail marijuana measure

The measure passed on Dec. 28, amid a holiday week.

Marijuana is legal to possess, consume and grow in Massachusetts as of Dec. 15.File

When Massachusetts lawmakers one week ago passed a bill delaying the opening of retail marijuana shops by six months, many legislators complained about the lack of advance notice.

Though only a handful of lawmakers were present for that Dec. 28 session, CommonWealth magazine reports that three state senators who support legalization were notified a day ahead of time that the bill was being prepared. Despite that, the vote came amid a holiday week, and wedged in between Christmas and New Year's Day, when action in the State House slows down.

The move pushed back the setup ofthe Cannabis Control Commissionto to mid-2018, along with the opening of retail marijuana dispensaries.

RELATED: Lawmakers push off legal pot sales

State senators William Brownsberger of Belmont, Jamie Eldridge of Acton and Patricia Jehlen of Somerville were notified on Dec. 27, one day before the measure passed, a spokesperson for Senate President Stan Rosenberg told CommonWealth.

In a post on his website, Brownsberger explained that he wasn't really troubled bythe move to postpone.

"Treasurer [Deborah] Goldberg, who under the people’s vote will be the primary state regulator of marijuana, needs funding to pay people to run the regulator process, but the people’s vote does not actually create any immediate funding source," he wrote. Brownsberger said he was disappointed by the vote to delay the rollout, but added he accepted it "as a reasonable accommodation to reality in the circumstances."

RELATED: Baker signs measure delaying opening of marijuana retail shops

Brownsberger said that the Senate leadership team spoke with those lawmakers who supported the marijuana legalization ahead of the vote.

"I expressed that as long as we did not delay the basic legalization, including the permission for home grow, I did not object to modest delay in the rollout of commercial regulation," he wrote.

Rosenberg said that the delay will allow for more much-needed time to "improve" the new marijuana law and to work with stakeholders.

"Luckily, we are in a position where we can learn from the experiences of other states to implement the most responsible recrational marijuana law in the country," he said in a statement after the vote.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo added in a statement that the delay "will allow the committee process to work through the law's complicated implications and provide a process by which we can strengthen, refine and improve it."

Not all pro-marijuana legislators knew about the vote to delay before it occurred.

State Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexingtonsaid he wasn't informed but would have supported it. State Sen. James Timilty of Walpolewasn't aware or present for the vote and told the Sun Chronicle he would have voted against the delay.

In his post,Brownsberger also promised to protect other parts of the law, like the tax on marijuana sales.

"While I am acutely aware of our financial needs in many areas, I firmly oppose increasing taxation of marijuana," he said.

 

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