fb-pixel

Still no pot bill compromise, but plenty of sniping on Beacon Hill

Last month, the House and Senate each passed very different versions of an overhaul of the marijuana ballot law put in place by 1.8 million voters in November.
Last month, the House and Senate each passed very different versions of an overhaul of the marijuana ballot law put in place by 1.8 million voters in November.Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

Twelve days after whiffing on a deadline to rewrite the state’s marijuana legalization law, leaders of the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Democrat-controlled House engaged in a new round of sniping Wednesday.

Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg encouraged legislators in the House “to join the Senate in supporting a democratic and transparent legislative process” — a not-so-subtle insinuation that the top-down-controlled House is neither democratic nor transparent in its legislative process.

And Speaker Robert A. DeLeo retorted the House continues to work with the Senate on a cannabis bill that benefits the people of Massachusetts, “not the interests of the marijuana industry” — a not-so-subtle insinuation that the Senate is on the side of pot businesses.

Advertisement



Last month, the House and Senate each passed very different versions of an overhaul of the ballot law put in place by 1.8 million voters in November. The House’s legislation would sharply raise pot taxes and give municipal officials, instead of local voters, the power to ban cannabis shops and farms from their communities. The Senate’s plan would make more modest changes.

Since then, three senators and three representatives have been working in secret to produce a compromise bill. But they blew through their self-imposed end-of-June deadline to get one to Governor Charlie Baker.

Last week, the Legislature sent a $40.2 billion budget to Baker. But House and Senate leaders made the dense 327-page document public just hours before the chambers voted, suspending a requirement that bills be made public at least the night before final votes.

Wednesday’s cross-chamber zings began after the Globe asked Rosenberg, who has made talking about transparency a key part of his presidency, whether the Senate would give the public at least 24 hours to read and digest wide-ranging pot legislation before holding a vote to send it to Baker.

Advertisement



Both the full House and the Senate will need to greenlight any marijuana compromise. But the Senate is always the final vote before a bill goes to the governor.

In a statement, Rosenberg did not directly answer the question, but he took a swipe at the House.

“The budget was a unique situation,” Rosenberg said. “The Senate has and always will provide adequate time for members and the public to review legislation before bringing it to the floor. I encourage my colleagues in the House to join the Senate in supporting a democratic and transparent legislative process.”

In response, DeLeo issued a statement of his own.

“We continue to work with the Senate to find a meaningful compromise on the marijuana legislation that will benefit the people of Massachusetts, not the interests of the marijuana industry,” he said. “The House also looks forward to the finalization of the budget and getting the pregnant workers bill to the Governor’s desk,” he added, referring to a piece of legislation passed by both branches with minor differences, which are being reconciled by House and Senate leaders.

In December, with no public hearings and no formal public notice, a few lawmakers passed a measure to delay the likely opening date for recreational marijuana stores in Massachusetts by half a year, from January to July 2018.

They delayed to give themselves extra time to rewrite the voter-passed law — something they still haven’t done.


Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos and subscribe to his weekday e-mail update on politics at bostonglobe.com/politicalhappyhour.

Advertisement