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A Slow Burn For Both Marijuana Stores And Education Funding In Massachusetts

A jar of marijuana buds for sale inside the River Rock dispensary in Denver, Colorado.
Steve Brown
A jar of marijuana buds for sale inside the River Rock dispensary in Denver, Colorado.

Many adults in Massachusetts supported the legalization of recreational marijuana. And it seems delayed.

The Cannabis Control Commission is carrying out its due diligence. But how long will it be before this “hold on sales” affects the state’s tax revenues and bottom line?

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: That's a great question, and I don't think anybody really knows the answer.

The Cannabis Control Commission is obviously working under the soft deadline of July 1 that the legislature set last year to license retail sale of marijuana shops. It is apparently safe to say that there will be no new marijuana retail shops opening on street corners by July 1.

Later this week, if some of these licenses start to get issued to medical marijuana dispensaries who are open and functioning, and selling to medical patients -- they just need to make the switch to sell recreational marijuana as well. Those sales could begin “on time.”

But this deadline, as the commissioner has said, is arbitrary. The legislature did pick this as their target date, and has been the target date of the Cannabis Control Commission, who has been working towards it. But it appears that some of these retail locations may be a little slower to open.

That could have tax ramifications, if this really extends through the summer and into the fall, but we don't know yet.

A month has passed since the Senate passed an education bill. It makes big changes to the way the funding formula calculates the cost of public education. We have yet to see any movement on it in the House, right?

That's right. I mean the Senate, this session, after last session, tackling a major education bill that called for pouring more than $200 million a year extra into education, took a different tactic this session, calling for a complete overhaul of the funding formula.

It wasn't necessarily specific money tied to this, but it was going to reform the way these schools are paid, and eventually over time would lead to additional education funding.

This has not really emerged as a priority, at least not one that we've seen on the House side. We talked to the Speaker [of the House Rep. Bob DeLeo] last week about priorities now that we're under 50 days left in the session for formal legislating, and this was not something that he ticked off [as a priority]. He's looking to finish some of these long-term borrowing bills, tackle opioids, potentially do some energy legislation, and a major health care bill.

The Chairwoman [Rep. Alice Hanlon Peisch] of the Education Committee on the House side has said that they’re still looking at this, but it doesn't really look promising at this point.

The so-called 'red flag' bill has cleared both the House and Senate. Late last week, Matt Stout at the Globe reported that hundreds of Massachusetts gun owners may have their firearms taken away by local chiefs of police, unrelated to the bill. Was this enforcement of federal law by Governor Charlie Baker’s administration, or its timing, surprising?

The timing is little interesting, particularly given all the debate around guns and how to control them. The administration is also making this call and sending these letters out to local police asking them to take people's weapons away at a time when the governor is running for re-election, and facing challenges from Republican Scott Lively,who is an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment.

But I think what's interesting is how long these talks have apparently been going on with the federal government, which says Massachusetts was improperly licensing people to carry weapons who have a misdemeanor crime.

And this isn't something that ran afoul of Massachusetts state law, but the feds say they were licensing guns in violation of federal law. I think the reaction that you saw from GOAL -- which has ardently opposed the red flag bill, and appears close to becoming law -- they said it was unfortunate, but they didn't really fault the administration for doing this. This direction is coming from Washington. The Baker administration seems to just be following the protocols laid out by ATF and other gun regulatory bodies in the federal government.

Keep up here with Beacon Hill In 5.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.
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