One of eight states to legalize some form of cannabis use back in November, Massachusetts has suddenly found itself as a recreational marijuana pioneer in the Northeastern United States. But last Wednesday, state lawmakers announced that there would be a six-month delay for the retail sale of recreational cannabis.
The legislators claim that they need more time to tinker with the ballot measure that was approved by voters during last month’s election. While cannabis shops were originally required to wait until January 2018 to legally obtain the requisite licensing to open, the state’s House and Senate voted to push that date back six months to July 1 instead. Massachusetts’ Governor Charlie Baker (R) is expected to approve the delay bill into law.
According to Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg, the reason for the delay is to better ensure public health and safety:
“This short delay will allow the necessary time for the legislature to work with stakeholders on improving the new law. Luckily, we are in a position where we can learn from the experiences of other states to implement the most responsible recreational marijuana law in the country," he said in the a statement.
The announcement has ruffled the feathers of many cannabis advocates in the state, none of whom were alerted about the legislation until Tuesday night. The bill has faced harsh criticism as it leaves residents in an awkward position where they can legally possess cannabis, but have nowhere to purchase it lawfully.
Aside from the delay on recreational cannabis retail, the state has had a decent track record when it comes to treating marijuana users as law-abiding citizens. Massachusetts recently deemed it unlawful for police to pull over people on suspicion of marijuana possession. Additionally, many New England residents have looked at cannabis as a tool to help fight the devastating opioid problem that has run rampant through the area.
Still, the six-month delay is both an annoyance and potentially troublesome, as the black market seems to be the only sector that benefits from this decision. Since the government seems unsure of how to implement the will of their constituents, advocates in Massachusetts have a reason to worry about the future of recreational cannabis in their state. Let’s just hope this recently approved delay isn’t just the first step in a plan to prevent recreational legalization from going into full effect.