The Upcoming Marijuana Votes

I think the ballot question needs little modification — but I would welcome your thoughts before voting.

I supported Question 4, legalizing marijuana, because I feel there are too many ways for young people to get caught up in the criminal justice system. Dealing in illicit substances is all too attractive for young people who have limited opportunities. We need to take away the incentives to go into illicit marijuana dealing by creating a fully functioning legal market.

Fortunately, there is no movement to eliminate any of the basic freedoms created by the people’s vote last November.

Yet, there are two kinds of troubling proposals under discussion in the legislature.

First, increased taxation: The people voted to tax retail marijuana sales at 3.75% on top of the 6.25% sales tax. In addition, the people voted to allow a 2% local tax on top of that for a total of 12%. There are various proposals to increase those tax rates — motivated either by the opportunity to fund state priorities or by the notion that higher taxes would reduce consumption of an unhealthy product (think, for example, of our high tobacco taxes or of proposals to tax sodas).

I have no interest in these tax proposals — the higher we raise the taxes, the more persistent the black market will be. Moreover, in 2018, we will be asking the people to consider a tax increase on those making over $1 million per year, a proposal that would raise 10 or 20 fold more than the marijuana tax will raise. I do not feel that we should be nickel-and-diming voters, especially where they have already spoken as to the tax level they feel is appropriate for marijuana.

Second, elimination of the voters’ voice. The people’s vote last November allows communities to ban marijuana establishments by a local referendum. Several dozen communities have already gone through this process. Some local officials are lobbying for the ability to shut out marijuana establishments by a vote of the city or town’s governing body, instead of popular referendum. I personally feel that movement in this direction would send exactly the wrong message — the message that government officials know better than the people and should not have to consult them on this matter of community preference. Additionally, I am concerned that reducing the number of licit outlets will sustain the illicit market.

The ballot question vested regulatory authority in a commission appointed and controlled by the state treasurer, analogous to our Alcohol Beverage Control Commission. Some have suggested that we should split the appointing authority among the other statewide constitutional officers, as we have for the Gaming Commission. I have no objection to this, but do not find it compelling.

On a positive note, some are pushing for the addition of language to expunge the records of people who were convicted of marijuana crimes under the old law. I share the motivations of these advocates, but I think expungement is a side show in this context. Very few people will benefit from any feasible expungement process. Even under existing law, first-time marijuana possession offenders automatically get their records sealed.

Overall, while I see the potential for some technical corrections to the ballot question, I am at a loss to see why we’d want to make any major changes. People are watching government closely these days and there is a crisis of confidence. The last thing we should be doing is pushing back on the will of the people in the absence of very compelling reasons to do so.

I’d very much welcome your thoughts.

Update on June 21

Senator Jehlen has released to the Senate for review a good bill which is respectful of the will of the voters and responsive to the concerns I outlined above. She has also produced a summary and a comparison of the pending bills with the ballot question. The latter document includes some useful answers to frequently asked questions.

The House is taking up its bill today and the Senate is taking up its bill tomorrow. Conferees will get down to work on negotiating between the branches soon after that. There are over 100 amendments pending to both bills, so the bills will change materially before going into the conference process.

Thoughts still welcome!

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

169 replies on “The Upcoming Marijuana Votes”

  1. Will –
    I agree with the logic of your response on all these issues. Rejecting the voters’ voice and so fully revamping the legislation as is now proposed seems quite wrong and voids the basic expectations of our democratic process. Increasing the tax level could defeat hopes of reducing the black market. Whether a slightly different administrative structure would work better may be arguable – and I trust the legislators to have a reasonable understanding of how to best define that.
    Thank you for your good thinking.
    Myron Miller

  2. I agree fully, Will, w your analysis. Especially raising the taxes. If legal weed becomes too expensive, we will be encouraging the illegal black market to flourish. Sallye bleiberg.

  3. Hi Senato Brownsberger,

    I agree with your stated positions on the proposed changes of the marijuana legalization referendum.

    Thank you,

  4. Hi Senato Brownsberger,

    I agree with your stated positions on the proposed changes of the marijuana legalization referendum.

    Thank you,

  5. Hi Will, you asked so here is my opinion.

    2. I knew this would happen. Everyone said woohoo, it’s going to legal. I kept saying that would believe it when I see it.

    3. Stop the foot dragging. The question won. Why not just license liquor stores to sell weed, or at least treat it the way liquor is. GRRRRRRRR. I remember I’m an old lady.

    4. That being said, thanks for looking out for democracy. And your points are well taken.

  6. Agree tax it to much they will just buy it on the black market, so its Lose lose for Massachusetts!! Guess they didn’t get that name Taxachusetrs for nothing !

  7. Will-
    I agree with you. It doesn’t make sense to impose a large tax on legal marijuana because folks will just buy it on the illicit market to avoid the tax. Also voters, not local officials, should get to decide if a particular community is going to prohibit marijuana sales within its borders.
    The commission the voters approved is fine-there is no need to tinker with it.
    And most importantly, the voters have spoken. Their decision should stand as is.

  8. Fully agree, Will. The suggestion of such a huge increase in the taxation would be the government equivalent of price gouging. The citizens of a town or municipality should take responsibility for decisions regarding local retail, they know their town and what it can tolerate,it also takes the political element out of decision making by town councils or selectman.
    I do believe however that complete expungement of all marjuana convictions would possibly be in keeping with a renewed interest in prison sentencing reform.

  9. You have already shared my thoughts. I think the various attempts at undermining the public’s decision on this issue are deplorable. The tax increase is yet another dodge. Thank you, as always, for your intelligent and reasonable approach.

  10. On the tax – it seems to me that voters were voting basically to legalize MJ, and whether the added tax was 3.75%, or higher or lower, was not much of a consideration, if any. So the level of tax is a debatable topic. I agree it should not be punitive and drive people back to their dealers. But this is a competitive situation. Legal stores have costs and profit expectations. Illegal dealers have the same. Surely the state has data on what it takes for a legal store to compete with an illegal dealer. That data is what should drive the discussion.

    1. Data is great, but it’s hard to get comparable data.

      We know that people are driving to New Hampshire to buy cigarettes, but that doesn’t tell us how much we can raise Marijuana taxes.

      There are a whole lot of factors that will weigh into the choices that people make about where to buy and those factors vary from locality to locaality and person to person.

      Personally, I’d rather not push it, especially given the political context.

      1. I guess you are saying the state has not sought the data. The police know exactly what the economics of the illegal MJ trade is.

        1. The legislature really has made good effort to seek the data — there is a good white paper that our special commission produced last March — read it here.

          Noone really knows the economics — not at the level of certainty that gives unambiguous guidance for policy purposes. The police know prices, but not economics.

          For about ten years, I was part of a multi-disciplinary drug policy project at Harvard (read our book here). I had the privilege of working with some of the best-known drug economists in the world.

          The economics are very complex and murky and subject to huge guesstimation.

  11. I voted against legalizing marijuana. I hate gambling and think drinking is a very mixed bag. Still, if the law passed, I guess it must be honored until such time as folks rethink.

  12. I agree with your points.

    I don’t really like legislation by ballot initiatives because, while the people get to vote, we don’t get to discuss details the proposed law and make changes. That’s something the legislature *can* do, but apparently wouldn’t do for some reason in this case. And even if we could do it, we don’t individually have the resources to do research into the details of the proposed law (such as what is an appropriate tax rate).

    And then we get into the situations we have now, where the legislature does finally act, but tries to overrule the will of the electorate (increasing the tax rate dramatically, changing how a city/town can rule out having marijuana stores, etc).

    So, I’d agree with your point that the legislature should fix technical problems, but leave alone what people voted for.

  13. I agree with all the comments you made. Keep the law the way we voted on it and tax the high earners.

  14. I think your reasoning and conclusions make sense on all points and so would support your votes as described. Thank you for your clear thinking, for holding firm to these important principles, and especially for reaching out to your constituents in this way.

  15. Hello, Will …
    That our elected representatives regard themselves as empowered and entitled to second guess the electorate should give us all pause. It such behavior — even more than rogue bureaucracies — that corrodes faith and trust in the government. If what we decide at the ballot box is ignored then we are no longer democratic society in any meaningful sense. Nor are those we elect representative in any meaningful sense.

    I support your position. Carry on.

    Cheers, Scott

  16. I agree with the House vote on the 28% tax. 12% is too low for a “sin” tax since I think the taxes raised should cover the cost of drug addiction treatment programs and the regulatory cost. For the tax delta if you really want marijuana for recreational use wouldn’t you want to buy it from a known source and pay a surcharge vs the random drug dealer on the corner? Having visited some of the stores in CO w a 27.9% tax I can tell you there is no shortage of demand.

    On a side note I think it’s time to do away with the 3 tiered distribution system with alcohol which only serves to benefit a few distributors. Given this day and age of Amazon prime and uber eats I should be able to order wine from a winery I visit without an undue tax that doesn’t even benefit the state.

    On the 2018 $1M surcharge I’m against since that demograhic is the most mobile. Just take a look at what’s happened in CT, but if it does go through the taxpaper should br allowed to pick the bucket i.e, infrastructure, parks, safety, education it goes into vs a general fund

  17. I agree with you especially on the local control issue. We have seen that politicians have lagged on this issue, making voters the instigators of change in every state where cannabis has been legalized. Local politicians will likely be more responsive to constituencies who are vocally fearful of outlets in there community even though they may not represent the majority view. Let communities vote!

    1. Leave the bill alone. That is my input.
      Follow the bill. The people voted for legalizing marijuana and this was not a nonbinding vote.

      I would also like to see in the near future those who have an arrest record for having marijuana petitioning to have their record expunged.

  18. As far as the Millionaie tax. I say be careful what you wish for. They may just move to a lower tax state and you might get less than you think

  19. Raising taxes as high as those being proposed would end up leaving the black market for marijuana in place. Reasonable regulated access is what is needed; marijuana isn’t going away.

    Eliminating the voters’ voice is a terrible idea. Referendums are the right way to do this. Allowing Boards of Selectmen or Mayors or other municipal bodies to ban marijuana rather than leaving this to the citizens of their communities sends a message of no confidence to the electorate/

  20. Will, I am neutral on the changes that you highlight. I am more concerned that it looks like the regulatory regimes for medical and recreational will be merged. This can make it more difficult to gain acceptance for a medical dispensary in a location that might have more concerns about a recreational one. It also may cause more issues if the federal government decides to crack down on one but not the other and lead to problems for both, remembering that they are not legal under federal law.

  21. On local choice – I agree with you that the voters in a community should decide, not their elected officials.

    On expungement – We should do everything we can to clean up the records of people convicted of crimes that are no longer crimes. But I assume that would not include dealers.

    Question – Will businesses certified to distribute medical MJ be automatically allowed to distribute recreational MJ?

  22. I’m with you on all fronts on this issue. No tax increase. No commission. No pushing back on the will of the people.

    Thanks for all you do!

  23. The history is important here. The legislature was opposed to medicinal marijuana, and helped slow that down. Then we voted this in, and they slowed that down. And now they’re making significant changes.

    The disregard for us, the voters, is palpable. It’s offensive.

    We had a ballot question, we considered it, we voted for it 2:1. Just do it, if only to demonstrate that the legislature cares what its constituents think. Give us the benefit of the doubt; and if a couple years in, it needs tweaking?, *then* start tweaking.

  24. Personally I agree with how you are thinking about this issue. If the taxes assessed appear to be too low to cover the cost of any negative health benefits in the future, we can raise them then. Local referendums definitely seem to be the way to go on this issue.

    1. It’s not about the pot for me. It’s not about the taxes, either.
      It’s about freedom.

  25. I think your perspectives are right on the money.

    Burdensome and disproportionate taxation is just a back door toward prohibiting and driving people to the illicit market. “Additionally, I am concerned that reducing the number of licit outlets will sustain the illicit market.” This cannot be understated: the intent is to effectively eliminate the illicit market. Geography is a important and if there are large areas where there are no sales allowed, this again brings back the illicit market.

    I agree that there should be some density restriction perhaps but that may already be in the ballot. In short, as you’ve said, this looks like tangential efforts to reverse or nearly reverse the stated will of the people.

    FWIW, I dont use the stuff, but can’t believe we’re filling our criminal justice system with these, fostering illegal sales, and ruining kids lives with criminal convictions for not much at all.

  26. I agree with you on both the taxes and the local ability to ban marijuana establishments.

  27. Will

    I totally agree with your positions. I was appalled at the bill that the house proposed. It went against the will of the electorate.

  28. I am in total agreement with you. The electorate voted . Are e they going to increase taxes on opioids? For once why can’t the legislature do what the electorate asked for. Thank you for your solicitation of ideas and for your service,

  29. I agree with you that both changes to the law are troubling. I also believe that the black market would flourish under higher taxes.

  30. Senator,
    I hope this finds you well.
    I am in COMPLETE AGREEMENT with you on this.
    You have once again earned my vote.
    54-46. That was the difference. If a Democrat won an election with those numbers the leadership would be saying things like “The people have spoken” and “This was a mandate”, or even “As Democrats, we believe in representative democracy. We must follow the will of the people”.
    The House Speaker says that we’re stupid, that we didn’t know what we were voting on. As if we can’t read, and think.
    I, therefore, thank you sir, for not being as condescending.
    I truly wish you well.

  31. Will, thank you once again for your thoughtful analysis of this issue; I agree with you on all points.

  32. Thank you for your thoughtful analysis and for your pushback against the effort of some of your peers to overturn the will of the public. I think there is need for greater regulation around advertising, for example, but the tax rate is fine as it is and democratic control is vital.

  33. I read the post and all the comments. It seems almost everybody is with Will, as I pretty much am. Don’t let local officials impose restrictions unless approved by voters. Make administration of the law associated regulations as simple and cost effective as possible.

    But I have a hard time deciding what level of taxation makes sense. Someone said that 27.5% doesn’t seem to dampen sales in CO. Maybe, but who can say what 10% would have done for sales? As for encouraging a black market, does anyone really know those parameters? Where’s the data?

    Consider that the 10% rate may be too low to deter people from amassing packets of legal pot and then dealing them to minors or nonresidents at a higher markup. Taxation at twice that or more might reduce that incentive. This would be moot if the law limits amounts of pot an individual can buy in a given period, but such restrictions would require a form of big-brotherism that most people wouldn’t accept.

    Lastly, I would like to see the law administered in a way that does not disadvantage small producers. The last thing I want to see is for pot to be corporatized, which inevitably leads to large concerns getting breaks small producers don’t. So, how about imposing a graduated tax on cannabis profits?

  34. The people have given a decision and that must be honored by the legislature. Even though I have mixed opinions about legalizing marijuana, the legislature should stop meddling around.

  35. The will of the people was to allow recreational Marijuana. It was a rare person who concerned themselves with the details.

    Your job is to figure out the best legislation to make Marijuana legal in a way that does not harm society — either the users or general public.

    It’s not about the advocates — get it right for the Commonwealth.

  36. > voters, especially where they have already spoken

    This is critical. The legislature could well have enacted progressive marijuana itself and failed to do so. For it now to raise the tax in a way that may threaten the most important part of the idea–to minimize or eliminate the black market–is very dangerous. Clearly, the generally conservative Democratic House of Representives–living under the speaker’s thumb–once again is reacting rather than leading.

  37. In terms of whether a higher tax rate would be a POLICY problem, it would be helpful to know somethings about other states’ experiences; my impression is that the tax rate is significantly higher pretty much everywhere else. It is very hard to know what the effect of a certain tax rate will be vis a vis the illicit market. It would help to know more about the experience of other states (which I know is obviously very limited), and to know what the tax rates are on alcohol and cigarettes. It seems reasonable to do something comparable with marijuana. I agree with the comment that people voted for this in order to legalize, not in order to set a specific tax rate. My (again not very informed) opinion is that this bill was put forward by commercial marijuana interests, who obviously would like the lowest feasible tax rate.

    From a POLITICAL standpoint, judging from the overwhelming weight of these comments, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to tinker with the people’s voice at this point.

    My philosophy here and with many other things is “legalize and tax to [or slightly beyond] social cost.”

  38. I couldn’t agree with you more. The ballot question is as close to democratic government as it gets. Any legislation that changes the ballot question as written undermines the people’s ability to participate in self government.
    Thank you for respecting the people’s decision.

  39. I agree with your analysis. Most of the proposed changes are bad policy.

    The only thing that gave me pause in this was “analagous to the ABCC.” I think the ABCC is terribly misguided most of the time, and I wouldn’t want to repeat that mistake.

  40. Hello,

    I agree with your thoughts. I think that taxing marijuana extensively will lead to more illicit buying/selling. Since this is the opposite of what we want, I would prefer to reduce the taxes on the drug.

    Children who want it will always be able to get access, just as they are able to access alcohol and cigarettes. However, the more prevalent legal avenues are, the harder it will be to find illegal avenues.

    Not allowing marijuana establishments is a short-sighted decision by towns and people alike. I agree with your basic sentiment, but I’m not sure it is that important.

  41. Thank you very much for your comments here. I’ve been following this pretty carefully, and I agree with your analysis.

    I’m generally not fond of legislation by referendum, and I’m fine with the legislature cleaning up the technical provisions. If a few more months are needed to set things up properly, or if the 3.75% doesn’t cover the regulatory costs and should be a little bit higher, that’s OK with me. But anything that seems likely to perpetuate the black market — such as substantially higher taxes or enabling local officials to ban businesses without a local public vote — would be counter-productive and against the spirit of the referendum.

    As always, thank you for your thoughtful leadership!

  42. While I voted against the ballot question I agree with your analyses of the proposed changes. I also think that the tax on marijuana should be no different than the tax on alcohol.

  43. Dear Will, I agree with your positions on this issue. I do not believe that making any drugs illegal is a good idea. Whatever we can do to remove the power and wealth of organized crime, gangs, etc. is worth while. We are finally understanding as a society that drug addiction is a disease which must be treated, not punished.
    As far as marijuana is concerned, it is too benign to deserve so much control. Thank you, Kent Werth

  44. Taxes are necessary to offset the social cost of this product. I do believe the tax rates as they stand now are adequate to do so.

    I also agree that the local community should be able to vote to ban establishments.

    why is the state government trying to change what we just voted in?

  45. I agree with you.
    I happen to believe booze and marijuana should not be treated differently legally and in where shops should be located.

  46. I completely agree with your points here. I’m also confused by the changes in oversight of the industry. I see no compelling reason to take any of it out from under the Treasurer’s purview. I hope you vote against these changes.

    And I’m speaking as someone who has no interest in using marijuana products and I’m the mother of a teen. We can’t regulate an industry if we force it back into the black market. It seems to me that these regulations make things riskier for my son, not safer. Who knows what’s in the stuff sold on the black market if he or his friends get a hold of off-market stuff? I hope he just doesn’t use it, but no sane parent should count on that assumption.

  47. Let the folks out who are doing time for something which is no longer illegal, the sooner the better.
    I agree with all of your points, and that the tax needn’t be any higher than 10%.
    While I never have been, nor will I ever be, a user, it is a no brainer to me that it should be decriminalized. The people have voted so.

  48. First I am against all smoking but the people voted for this so I believe lawmakers should follow the will of the people. It seems government knows more than governed. Time for lawmakers to stand aside.

  49. Ok. If no one is going to say it, I will.

    Five members of Congress were just shot. You could dismiss that as the work of a crazy man literally living in a van down by the river, except that threats of violence are now filling the voicemail boxes of both parties.

    Violent extremists are like canaries in a coal mine. They’re a warning sign of a changing, more dangerous environment–the way terrorists signal larger cultural conflicts.

    In other words, plenty of regular people are furious at government. Because government has been ignoring the welfare of average people while feathering its own nest.

    So, this might not be the best time for the legislature to arrogantly overrule the will of the people while voting itself an extravagant pay raise during a budget crisis.

    I don’t think the stoners are going to threaten anybody. That’s not the point. The point is, how much of a bubble do legislators live in? How can they possibly not know how arrogant they look?

  50. Hi Will,
    I too, agree with your positions. I am also disgusted by the sense of entitlement that the other lawmakers are displaying.

  51. I completely agree. I don’t understand why any change should be made as the voters of the commonwealth of Massachusetts spoke by voting the legalization of marijuana. Whats the point of going through the whole process of getting this on the ballot for people to decide what we want if politicians turn around and wipe out what we the people voted for.

  52. Will, I agree with everything you believe in your statement. The people voted for this. It’s done. Keep it the way it was voted on. those folks in the local government who banned marijuana establishments against the will of the people should be voted out next term. Thanks for all you do.

  53. I use medical marijuana and welcome the availability of recreational to find better prices than medical. At the rate of 400.00 an ounce it’s a crying shame and cost prohibitive to the disabled on SSI income. I am severely disabled with PTSD, a bad back and use wheel chair and in pain 24/7. Please, no high taxes (no pun intended) and keep it safe and affordable. Thanks

    1. Sobering report. The increase in abusers and interdiction particularly so. I think we can expect a fair amount of pop will be diverted from the supply chain by both organized and unorganized traffickers in MA, regardless of the level of taxation. That activity might quiet down once more states legalize.

      If CO is any guide, the level of abuse (hence of psychosis) will rise here as well, especially among youth. It will be hard to keep teens from trying it if adults around do, and what to do with the kids that get caught needs much more forethought and resources than it has received to date.

      I’m pro-legalization, but want to see the psychologists, press and pols turn their attention to root causes of substance abuse. I feel many many of which are economic (people trapped by inequality and dim prospects), and many of the rest have to do with upbringing (parental neglect and abuse, educational systems failures).

      Sure, there’s peer pressure, but let’s trace it back to learn more about why kids are vulnerable in the first place.

      1. Sorry, should have said “users” instead of “kids” at the end. But the focus needs to be on kids. We already have evidence that pot (not pop) interferes with brain development in teens, making it even more urgent to discourage young people from trying it until they are old enough to drink.

  54. I am clerk at MassCann and we are rallying all cannabis allies to say to the Joint Committee on Marijuana Legislation and the House to KILL THE BILL they just passed out of committee. It is a horrifying Jefferson Beauregard Sessions of a bill, a huge step backwards, and in comparison, we can happily live for a bit with Question 4.
    We would prefer to have the regulation of cannabis/hemp/marijuana under the Department of Agricultural Regulation, as in H3195, but at this point, Q4 is fine!

  55. I agree with your thoughts on the bill and the amendments. I’l particularly dubious about allowing local elected officials to veto the sale of marijuana as it just smells like an end run around the entire bill.

  56. The purpose of the referendum was to legalize marijuana. Beyond that, most voters didn’t pay much attention to the details of the referendum (tax rate, ability of local communities to opt out) and don’t really care. I doubt most object to the legislature making sensible modifications of the bill. Belmont Town Meeting postponed our consideration of opting out until the legislature clarified what the opt-out provisions will be. There’s a lot to be said for clarification to the law that avoids further administrative action or confusion. I favor the highest tax rate that the market will allow without exacerbating the black market, for reasons akin to taxing alcohol and tobacco. However, I don’t know what that rate is, and I don’t know whether there is good research on this. The original rate of 12% strikes me as low, but 28% could be high. Again, the tax rate ought to be based on a thorough market analysis. As for who controls it? I am not a fan of independent commissions, as they frequently become too independent and hence unaccountable. We need a happy mix of insulation from immediate and shifting political considerations as opposed to ultimate accountability. Good luck sorting out what that looks like

  57. One bothersome issue is Jeff Sessions’s announced policy of ignoring State decriminalization laws, and instead using extreme enforcement of Federal laws to reinstate the failed “mass incarceration” policies used by the Federal Government to fill the jails with persons (mainly men of color) who commit minor infractions. Fuller jails mean more profits for the private contractors who run jails (and who make donations to politicians).

    1. One wonders if Jeff Sessions will post federal agents to arrest buyers at cannabis distributors as ICE agents have been posted at courthouses to arrest illegal immigrants.

      1. You have to get a conviction, which requires a jury. Hopefully no Massachusetts federal jury would convict.

  58. Dear Mr. Brownsberger,

    Thank you for being a staunch defender of voters rights. And thank you for opposing this bill. We were fully informed about what we voted on. We do not support the ‘Gaming Commission model’, we support Q4. We would prefer the model in H3195 (MDAR oversees production, DOR oversees revenue and DPH oversees public safety and post harvest regulations (as it does now for MMJ). This approach would have saved us $10 million in set up costs (Treasury estimate) and used existing departments (no new pension obligations).
    H3751 (The house omnibus bill) is a Bill of Attainment – creating a defacto FBI database with all licensees (and all their associates and all potential employees information complete with fingerprints), with a tax that will enrich Maine and harm Mass consumers and several provisions that directly hurt MMJ patients (wholesale tax, elimination of pediatric program). If Jeffrey Sessions had written a bill for Massachusetts, this would be it. Please KILL THIS BILL. It cannot be fixed.

  59. I’m in total agreement with your analysis. The legislature should not greatly amend the declared wishes of the voters as expressed on the ballot question.Perhaps a modification if needed should be on parity with the control of alcoholic beverages.

  60. I’m in total agreement with your analysis. The legislature should not greatly amend the declared wishes of the voters as expressed on the ballot question.Perhaps a modification if needed should be on parity with the control of alcoholic beverages.

  61. I think higher taxation is the wrong thing to do. In places where marijuana is legal, opioid overdoses have decreased. Marijuana allows/relief/escape for many who would have to go to the black market if prices become very high. Those taking medical marijauana are already in a bind as it is illegal federally, making urine tests mandatory for certain insurance coverage.

  62. I believe that the people have spoken and want marijuana to be legal. As it is a luxury item for most, it should be taxed and regulated the same as alcohol. The fact that the state is now trying to put forth ridiculous regulation is basically showing its citizens that you can speak your mind and vote according to your beliefs, but ultimately the government can find ways to overrule the people by implementing ridiculous bureaucratic red tape.

  63. Your stance sounds logical and well-thought out, and I agree with your arguments. Thanks for your concern with acurrately representing the beliefs of your constitutients!

  64. Will, you are exactly right on all counts. The voters passed this referendum and it should not be substantially changed.

    It is not wise to tax too highly when there is an existing black market.

    The decision to ban marijuana establishments should remain with the voters.

    You are most correct when you say that confidence in the system is low. We should hew closely to the bill that the voters passed. Otherwise we stoke the fires of cynicism.

  65. I do not think it is appropriate or wise to alter the marijuana law. While I didn’t personally favor the ballot question, the fact remains that it was put to the voters and they voted in favor. Additionally, the proposed changes would only serve to drive up the black market, IMO. Why would anyone buy it legally and pay a 28% tax when they can readily buy it without the tax.

  66. Hi Senator,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments on the proposed modifications to the voter-approved ballot measure on legalizing marijuana.

    I agree with you on both points: that excessive taxes (and 12% already seems pretty excessive) will only encourage ‘black market’ activity, one of the very things legalization aims to end, and that local officials need to rely on popular referenda to ban marijuana establishments, not governing bodies. There is absolutely too much unnecessary government interference and imposition of obstacles, and this is another example.

    Thanks for keeping us in the loop.

  67. Thank you for your thoughtful analysis of this bill.

    I do want to point out one oversight, and that is in regards to local control. The bill explicitly states that for a city or town to ban a recreational marijuana establishment, it must be a decision of the local legislative body (the same way that all other similar decisions are made in every community). The text of the bill (Section 4, subsection 32b) actually outlines how each form of government must come to this decision, and in the case of a town, it says: ” by a majority vote of the board of selectmen AND a majority vote of the town at a town meeting.” [emphasis added]

    Town meeting, by many opinions, is the “gold standard” for government decision making. It is considered by many to be the purest form of democracy, and in New England, town meeting form of government is what many communities pride themselves on. It is insulting that the inaccurate soundbite “a handful of selectmen can decide this for the community” continues to be perpetuated by the media.

    Thank you again for your analysis. I encourage others to actually read the bill text before relying on media outlets to sustain their outrage.

  68. It’s time to listen to the people . Government is to slow and out of touch with reality. Please don’t over tax us . Stop dragging your feet . Be fair for once . I am a medical Marijuana user and it has made a huge difference in my life. It should be legal for everyone. Thank you. Do the right thing.

  69. I agree with you on both points, Will, but I also agree with you on not obstructing the ballot by insisting on them at this time.

  70. I agree with you to vote no on increased taxation and no to reducing the amount of licit outlets.
    Pat Gold

  71. I agree with both of your positions on this.

    If the medical marijuana dispensaries are any barometer, prices will already be above those in the black market without additional taxes. Convenience and legality may persuade smokers to spend a little extra, but only to a point.

    Furthermore, in many ways this law was sold as a way to undermine the illegal market, not as a way to pad the general fund or lower smoking rates. Down the road we can re-evaluate the tax structure, but at the law’s onset I believe any decisions about taxes should be primarily informed by achieving this goal; not revenue generation and not deterrence, as those weren’t the basis for the law passed.

    I also disagree with removing the local referendum language. The ONLY reason town/city officials want this changed is because they want to ban dispensaries but don’t think voters would support it or they don’t want to have to publicly make their case for it. Either way, it’s fundamentally anti-democratic.

  72. I agree with you on all points. Decriminalization of drugs is essential; no use stymying it with sneaky obstacles. We finally decriminalized liquor, after so much havoc, and look, the sky has not fallen. The same number of people use it and abuse it as if it were illegal, but the crime-caused deaths and other social costs are eliminated.

    I’m wondering why expungement of past cannabis crimes would be of such limit impact, but I’m assuming you must have a reason. More, how we go about releasing cannabis “criminals” from prison, having recognized that their “crimes” are not harmful to society but their incarceration is?

  73. Dear Will, I am not for making marijuana easily available. I have seen too many of my friends in my teens, in Lebanon where “hashish” was easily available, switch to more potent stuff such as heroin, and die of overdoses. I have also seen a few who didn’t switch but whose thinking capacity was altered over years of smoking the ‘easy’ stuff.
    Best regards,

  74. Will, I agree whole-heartedly with your views here. Let’s keep things the way people voted, and not raise taxes or allow local bans, which as you state, will just allow for black markets.

  75. I agree with your thoughts on the challenges to our voted choices on marijuana. I don’t understand the push to involve several state authorities in the regulation process, other than to allow more people the opportunity to stymy the will of the voters.

    Just a thought about pricing. If the enormous price increases over the last 40-50 years, even controlling for inflation, have not eliminated marijuana consumption, why does anybody think complicating purchase prices with taxes would make a difference. They should get over it.

  76. I am in favor of the proposed changes. I am concerned about the very probable increase in DUI and other public health issues with having marijuana more accessible, and, I believe, making it legal is also sending a message to the public that it is safe & socially acceptable to use.

    I believe it makes sense that MJ should have a higher tax to help offset the additional public costs that it will come with. I also feel that towns should have the right to decide if MJ is legal in their municipality.

    I realize I am in the minority in this opinion, but seeing the high cost of drunk driving and knowing that high driving will add to this, and also that young people I work with are already under the mistaken belief that MJ use is benign, I am concerned for the safety and well being of all

  77. Tax rates like this will make no money for the state and it will keep the Cannibas on the Black Market

  78. The tax issue is very sensitive one and clearly there will be a budget shortfall in MA THIS Yyear. People recent new taxes of any kind.
    Agree on the second point – let the people vote and decide.

  79. Regarding taxation, I think Massachusetts should try and follow the other states, by creating a tax level that is about the median of what the other states have (CO, WA, etc.). Increasing the amount local communities can tax to say 5 or 7% would encourage cities and towns to not reflexively ban shops, and provide funding for infrastructure and schooling that many communities need. Some towns in Colorado, for example, received enough local sales tax to fund scholarships for students, and given the other funding constraints, a new source of revenue is important for towns.

    I am completely opposed to making it easier to ban sale of marijuana in communities. It’s especially galling to see towns that voted for the Prop to then undemocratically ban its sale.

  80. Agreed Will, this is why people hate the Legislature in general, because they think they know better than the voters. Plus the Puritan nanny state is alive and well in Massachusetts. The law should be implemented as passed, and the State House should stop dragging its feet.

  81. Senator Brownsberger,

    You have stood proudly for the voters in our State. Raising the tax will further the underground market. I’m in favor of keeping the oversight with Ms. Goldberg. I’m not in favor of handing over to Mayor’s, BOS or City Council authority to ban pot shops. It should be up to the voters. The will of the voter is fundamental to our democracy.

    Thank you for your support of this issue.


  82. I agree with you on these. The voters approved specific tax levels and a specific process for towns to opt out. The legislature should not be tampering with the voters’ decisions. After the system has been place a few years and its results known, then perhaps the legislature would be justified in considering changes in the tax rate (but no the opt-out process).

    Likewise, the voters approved a specific regulatory apparatus. Absent a compelling reason to change it, why would the legislature consider doing differently?

  83. Chairman Brownsberger,

    Thank you for your commitment to democratic values, and for your support of the voter-enacted repeal initiative.

  84. I find myself agreeing with all points above. Statement by both you and my State Rep (Dave Rogers) stress that we must respect the will of the voters.

    The taxes should cover administration, not be a money maker – or loser – for the state. The 2% kicker for local govts is a decent incentive for towns to allow retail shops.

    I do fear our own town (Belmont) will be twisted into shutting out establishments. The Planning Board essentially did that for medical marijuana, pushing Town Meeting to approve a zoning change to only allow that in a very small, isolated of town.

    I’ve seen news reports about some alcohol and/or cigarette distributors wanting a piece of the action. Please do not let that happen. Eg, alcohol distributors really add no value, exert too much control over retailers, restrict markets.

    Cleaning up people’s records should not be coupled to this. I support that too, but should proceed independently.

    When will someone propose that the legislature name the state cannabis strain/variety? (No, I’m not serious. Well, maybe 1% serious.)

  85. I agree with the points you make above regarding limiting increases in taxation and leaving it up to the residents rather than town officials to determine whether or not to allow pot shops in their communities. Thanks for reaching out for comment on this issue!

  86. I agree with you on both issues, taxation and voter approval of changes.

  87. This fuss over marijuana regulations seems to be just government obstruction of the peoples’ will. As Nike says,”just do it.” What is the tax in Colorado ? They have done wonderful things with the money toward schools and health care.
    rather than fighting, nit picking, really, you all should be trying to move it forward.
    FYI, I have never smoked or otherwise ingested pot.

  88. Thanks for a well-stated and thoughtful position, which I support.
    Also, thanks for creating this forum where our neighbors can have meaningful input and dialog about policy. I’m really impressed by the quality of the comments you have received.

  89. I agree that taxes, at least in the beginning, should be as voted on in Question 4. After the “dust settles” perhaps the level taxes can be re-examined. I agree that legalization should be set up to put an end to the black market.

    Also, I agree that the local referendum approach is best.

  90. Hi Senator. Thank you for your interest in what the legislature is thinking of what to do once the sale of LEGAL marijuana becomes available for legal usage. I advocate for a small TOTAL tax (1 to 5%),10 mile radius purchasing availability and a small annual competitive cost ($10-$25) to make purchases; $150/oz for best quality. There’s no reason why marijuana should cost $3 to $400 an ounce.

  91. Bill,
    You are right on target.
    Honor the will of the voters.
    Don’t allow State greed and vote against increased pot taxes.
    The object is to wipe out black market dope dealers.
    Don’t the Cities and Town opt out!
    Let the free market work by not allowing limits on the numbers of pot shops.
    While the Treasurer is a busy woman, let Deb handle the regulations and appoint the commission. She is honest and we will not have a corrupt commission if she is in control.

  92. Senator Brownsberger,
    I 100% agree with your position on both subjects, First and Second. Any changes on the people’s vote would change the basic philosophy as to why last November, we supported ballot question 4, legalizing marijuana. Thank you!

  93. Sorry but I agree with your logic on the taxes and on elimination of voters’ choice. Guess you’ll have to look elsewhere for an argument.

  94. Thank you for your analysis which I fully agree with.If any adjustments to the initiative need to be made,they should be on parity with the restrictions and controls on alcohol.

  95. Yout logic is worthy and I agree that raising taxes high will support a black market. But frankly I think the black market will thrive anyway. People have their preferences.

    My greater concern is the growing of dope in my neighborhood. Like cigarettes, this drug can be harmful to health, and the studies have never been scrutinized. I am concerned that supporting the growth of this near schools, frying the brains of young minds during their greatest growth.
    I do support the de-legalization and glad it went through, but now what? Where will it go next?

  96. I agree with you. The people of Mass spoke, the bill was created by people who had studied other states who had legalized it long before us. Now Mass wants to reinvent the wheel with hefty taxation to boot!

    I am still waiting for the quagmire of medical marijuana to end! I do know the feds play a part of this but that is beside the point.

  97. Hello Senator ,
    I am confused on your stance If City & Towns should have the ability to vote on the state wide approval of Marijuana sales in their place where we all call home ! In this case I believe they Should……After all …. City & Towns have & had the ability to stop a ….Walmart …. Adult entertainment dance places… industrial development or any other business Not acceptable to the Community.
    Legally selling Marijuana & potent edibles means anybody in the World with I.D ( 21 or over ) with cash or a credit can cop these drugs in Allston or any other Community .
    I live in Allston….Everyone knows that this is already a haven for ” young people to buy-sell-do drurgs in our Community ! Remember this; dope gets you high…that it !
    One business owner got other businesses to sign a petition stating this would be good for business & the neighborhood ! I have bought pot in the past and still know people who smoke…..and the last thing I know is people do not stop before or after to shop !
    Allston/Brighton City Councilor Mark Ciommo stated in his wisdom that the vacate bank up the street towards Brookline is less congested with parking which the other location does not have & is smacked dapped in a highly traffic area which is probably the hardest place to park …. By the way Brookline Village ( Havard St – bus Route 66 ) already has a medical store .
    Anyway the law is passed….however how the law is implimented & where these location are should be restrictive & control by the City & not by personal vested interest.

    Respectfully ;
    Bruce Felton
    Member – Democrat Ward 21

    1. I think we agree. My view is that communities should be able to make this decision by a vote of the voters of the community. That was what the ballot question contemplated. So, that would not be a decision made by “personal vested interest”.

  98. Senator Brownsberger,

    I agree with you that raising the tax on marijuana will only increase black market activity, this defeats one purpose of legalizing marijuana i.e to bring it out of the shadows and regulate the market. The levels proposed in Question 4 seemed reasonable, Some of tax levels being proposed at the state house would be totally counter productive in this regard.

    I feel that voters should be allowed to vote in a local referendum on whether of not to have a marijuana establishment in their town.

    Thank you for all you do.

  99. Dear Representative, I’ve looked and weighed the good and bad. I voted against legalization for a number of reasons, health the foremost consideration. (NOTE: My wife has COPD and last night opened a window that filled the room with the smell of marijuana that she is deathly allergic to). I also believe it will harm the most vulnerable in our society, far worse than smoking or alcohol. As regards your questions I agree on both counts: 1) You should advocate vehement adherence to the will of the voters. This state’s politicians have a nasty habit of lying to the public, essentially stealing taxpayer money to fund gross incompetence to make themselves look good. Nickel and diming aside, someone should remind these folks they should say what they mean and mean what they say. I’m not the only taxpayer that’s fed up with the bait and switch tactics. 2) I totally agree with your reasoning. Representative, thank you for eliciting my thoughts. I greatly appreciate your honesty and openness (rare for a Democrat, I must say). Respectfully, Phil Stefanini

  100. Will the black market go away because of legalization? I do not think so. It is too big of a business. Why wouldn’t they reduce their prices to keep their customers? They are open 24 hours a day. They have an established customer base. Has anybody given this any thought?

  101. While I appreciate your viewpoint, this is one of those rare issues on which we disagree. While I support the idea of legal recreational marijuana, I voted against Question 4. Perhaps my fear of the marijuana industry becoming another version of the tobacco industry is a factor given my history of public health advocacy. I thought that the proposal — which was drafted by the industry — was over-broad and virtually every public health and health care organization in the Commonwealth took that position as well.

    When I met the Colorado “marijuana czar” a year ago — a strong supporter of their legislation — and asked him that on the basis of the Colorado experience what three changes he wished he could have made in their law, he said: (1) Strong restrictions on advertising, (2) better education about edibles, and (3) phasing in the “home grow” provision until after the retail stores became operational. Later that week I heard him on WBUR indicating that he thought the proposed tax in Massachusetts was too low to effectively regulate the industry, let alone fund other needed services. His opinions were based on his actual experience in Colorado and I think his views were thus well founded.

    I agree that the will of the voters ought to be followed, but in reality most voters did not read Question 4 line-by-line. Ironically, I attended a debate in which the leading proponent of Question 4 stated that the voters should not worry if it were approved if somewhat flawed since the Legislature could amend it; now, he is saying that changes should not be made. Even the Boston Globe editorial in support of the Question prior to the vote suggested that it should be amended if passed.

    The bottom line is that I would support the amendments proposed that would allow municipalities to regulate retail sales and raise the taxes to the level in Colorado. As for the underground market: I don’t think the it will ever be closed down so long as people can grow substantial amounts of marijuana at home, thus assuring lower-priced products will always be available. Like you, I am also very strongly in favor of clearing the criminal records of people convicted of marijuana possession that would not have been criminal under the current law.

    1. Thanks, Steve.

      Just one thought — regarding the home grow. I agree this may contribute to some minor, local illicit marketing. What I really want to shut down (or at least shrink) is the international, gang-driven market.

      1. Will, what makes you think that home-grown products won’t find their way into cartel supply chains? It’s a diversion waiting to happen. What enforcement mechanisms do any of the bills set up to prevent that?

        1. Good old fashioned law enforcement still applies. None of the dealing penalties are repealed — there is just a carve out for the new licensed dealers.

          It could happen in theory, but think about the bridge building between modest home growers and dangerous gangs that would have to occur for that to happen. I don’t see it.

  102. Will, Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts:
    a) currently marijuana is a class 1: see
    b) my neurologist a few years ago told me that your brain has a tendency to bond with a drug, drugs, or hormones (the runner’s high).
    c) Marijuana is the greatest profit generating drug for the drug cartels, just google “marijuana profit cartel”. In fact The Economist within the past year had a special section on the “business” of the cartels.
    Regarding taxes … well my feeling is that once any type of revenue goes into a general fund that revenue goes to what the representatives want to spend.

  103. The voters spoke loudly and clearly on this initiative. It was not close. Thank you for opposing the excessive taxation and punitive nature of this proposed bill. We need a law that reflects the wishes of the voters, as outlined in the ballot initiative that was voted on in November. Thank you from Allston!

  104. Defeating H3751’s repeal (of Q4/c. 94G) and replace (with its c. 10A) bill is vital to protect the people’s will in enacting Q4. I support S2090, and urge the Senate conferees to refuse to concede to any manner of c. 10A as it appears in H3751. H3751’s c. 10A will reduce and delay legal market revenues, harming the state budget, public safety and health far more than Q4 or S2090.

  105. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. The last thing the legislature should be doing is pushing back on the will of the people.

    The legislature didn’t want to touch it, so we had a ballot measure. The people voted. That should be the end of it. Why the legislature thinks it needs to change it now, when it wouldn’t touch it in the first place, is beyond astounding.

    Likewise for the millionaire tax. Once the people vote on it, c’est fini. Maybe in a couple years – after we’ve had a chance to see how it actually worked out – we can consider tweaking it. Right now: hands off.

  106. Will,

    I don’t believe you can expect someone who is hoping to grow marijuana at home, even if it is for their own limited use, to limit the number of plants they have to 6.

    The production cycle requires you to have several plants at different levels of maturity in order to have a consistent supply of usable product.

    It seems that making more than 6 plants in your home a crime is effectively making growing at home a crime.

    But I am not an expert.

    FYI, I voted against legalization of recreational marijuana and I don’t use or grow marijuana.

    1. You are missing the point.

      It’s not about the pot.

      It’s about the FREEDOM.

  107. More important than numbers of plants and taxes are factors driving use and fallout from existence of farms and dispensaries. Like all drugs, MJ has side effects which vary from unwanted to dangerous. The ongoing specter of MJ being a “gateway” drug cannot be dismissed without ongoing vigilance. Someone who smokes MJ daily may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level most or all of the time. Residential camps surrounding dispensaries may be gigantic quicksand bogs swallowing the homeless and disenfranchised who come looking for camaraderie as well as MJ. The effect of those camps on a countryside or metropolis can be devastating.
    I voted for the legalization of MJ for medicinal effects on pain, seizures, easing a tortured death. It’s OK too for an occasional kaleidoscopic foray to the edges of transcendent imagination if used in the proper setting. Privileged users have to be smart users. Would a trial period with a follow-up vote one or two years into legalization be possible? Other drugs have been removed from the market once negative data is evident.

  108. I believe that alcoholism and drug addiction should be treated as illnesses so decriminalization is appropriate. This still allows an impaired individual to be accountable criminally and civilly for illegal CONDUCT and any damages caused.

    1. Dead on, Senator.

      Dead on.

      Thank you for holding this position.

      You don’t rule us.

      You REPRESENT.

      WE SPOKE.


      John, it’s not about the pot.

      It’s about the FREEDOM.


  109. Dead on, Senator.

    Dead on.

    Thank you for holding this position.

    You don’t rule us.




  110. I think Sen. Jehlen’s bill, unlike the House bill, manages to be faithful to the will of the voters and makes valuable improvements. I would encourage you to vote for the amendments from your colleagues that seek to improve the social and racial justice components of the bill further.

  111. Hi Will,
    I disagree with you 100%.
    I do not think it will put an end to the illicit market.
    I think the legislature should have got in front of this and written the law. Instead you let the industry write their own ticket and now you sound like their biggest defender and promoter.
    They had millions to use to promote the question.
    I am fine with elected officials of cities and towns making the choice to ban recreational marijuana.
    It is not the first time the legislature ignored the people’s will.
    You can’t pick and choose when you do it.

    I think the House is on the money here!

    1. John, with respect, why don’t you want your family, friends, and neighbors to be FREE ?

  112. I have read all 28 pages of this bill.
    I agree with 90% of the bill.
    It ought to pass, as it addresses most of what WE,THE PEOPLE (remember us?) prescribe to.
    Thank you for your continual attention to this matter, and I sincerely wish you well.


  113. Thank you Senator. I have supported you for quite some time and pleased that I did. The House bill 3768 is horrific, a piece of garbage that mocks the will of the voters. I have a Medical card and the dispensaries cannot keep up with demand, the house bill allows growing, sales, and even testing facilities to exist at the will of city Gov. To add insult to injury the House waited until the Gallery was cleared after 5 o’clock so all the amendments were bundled together. No transparency whatsoever. Back room politics. The House wants to allow marijuana but not seeds ? Can you buy an apple and not get seeds ? We voted on 12% tax, but the house decided what we voted on doesn’t matter. They want 28% and are willing to negotiate what we voted on. I happened to notice that almost every Republican voted no, and all Democrats voted yes. Even my Rep Kevin Honan who will not return my calls, but I will see him at a Ward 25 meeting looking for my vote. Thank you for all your good work. Please do not give an inch on this matter.

  114. How can the State compete with an industry that is open 24/7 and does not have an age restriction?

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