While Massachusetts residents wait for the voter-approved recreational marijuana law to go into effect, the Bay State’s lawmakers have been deadlocked on a plan to tweak the legal weed legislation. But while the state’s house and senate can’t seem to come up with a compromise, Massachusetts’ Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo is urging the squabbling lawmakers to take even more time, and put the cannabis bill on hold, at least until they can sort out the state’s budget.
According to the Associated Press, the state’s annual budget is already late, dictating how dollars will be allocated for a fiscal year that already started on July 1st. For Speaker DeLeo, making sure the budget is finalized far outweighs the importance of solidifying retail weed regulations.
“A key reason for our consistently high bond ratings has been our commitment to balanced, on-time spending plans,” DeLeo said. “In light of Standard & Poor’s recent decision to downgrade Massachusetts’ bond rating, we need now more than ever to get a budget done.” Speaking directly about the perceived link between the budget and cannabis bill, DeLeo added, “tying unrelated negotiations together for political leverage does a disservice to the residents of the commonwealth.”
Still, representatives from both the state house and senate have said that the bills have not and will never be linked. With Senate President Stan Rosenberg issuing his own statement in response to DeLeo’s comments, telling reporters that the “mischief makers are once again at work.” Meanwhile, both pieces of legislation have been handled behind closed doors, with only the word of legislative aids to provide the public with progress reports.
“The Senate is fully committed to continuing negotiations on both the budget and marijuana legislation simultaneously.” Rosenberg said.
And while New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is getting dragged over hot coals for his decision to lounge on a state beach during the Garden State’s own budget crisis-caused government shutdown, Massachusetts has been able to avoid a similar fate thanks to a temporary stopgap budget.
On the cannabis side of things, the six person legislative committee is split on tax rates, local municipal power over dispensaries and grow facilities, and a number of other issues that will affect the impending retail market.
Of course, if Bay State lawmakers wanted to make their lives easier, they could drop the cannabis bill altogether, turning the original voter-approved recreational regulations into law and giving legislators enough time to hammer out the details of the state budget.
In his original statement DeLeo said he is confident lawmakers can send the budget to Governor Charlie Baker by the end of this week. As for the cannabis legislation, one deadline has come and gone, so don’t hold your breath for a quick resolution.