Two developments in the wild world of weed changed the landscape of newly approved marijuana laws in Massachusetts this week. We are all holding our breath waiting for the conclusion on the state legislature’s repeal and replace of Question 4. But a different kind of change was determined by the Massachusetts High Court last Monday.
An employee of a Massachusetts marketing company was fired for failing a drug test on her second day at the office. The female hire has been a medical marijuana prescribed patient as a result of Crohn’s disease. She filed a lawsuit against her former employer claiming her unjust firing for medical reasons .
The case was sent to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in appeal of lower court rulings. The High Court declared that the employer violated the woman’s rights by terminating her for her prescribed use of marijuana and is permitting her to sue the marketing firm.
A huge precedent being set here for medical marijuana users and advocates. The judicial body is recognizing marijuana as a medical treatment and drawing a new line for employers that test for THC. It only took five years after the approval of medical marijuana to get legal vindication for patients. Finally medical marijuana users are seen in the same light as any other medical patients.
Later in the week, Massachusetts State legislators reached a compromise on the redesigned recreational marijuana bill. Just in case you forgot, voters approved Ballot Question 4 in November with the first measures taking effect in December. The local Senate and House have been at odds over the specifics of the bill.
The controversial aspects deal with how weed will be taxed and how municipalities can prohibit sales or distribution. The ballot measure that a majority of Bay Staters approved defined a tax rate of 12%, which included a 3.75% excise tax and a 2% optional tax from municipalities .
The new bill, H. 3818, is awaiting approval by Gov. Charlie Baker after leaving the State Senate last week. Lawmakers raised the total tax rate to 20%, with a 10.75% excise tax and 3% optional local tax. These rates aren’t entirely excessive, given that both Colorado and Washington are trying to reduce their rates to between 10 and 25%. After starting with a retail tax rate over 30%, other states are noticing that these are too high to impact the illegal drug trade .
Besides the cost, state legislators took aim to tweak how local towns and cities can prevent the sale of marijuana. In the 260 municipalities that approve Question 4, a referendum would be required in order to ban marijuana sales. For the 91 municipalities that voted against Question 4, town boards or city councils have the right to ban marijuana stores.
H. 3818 increased the number and makeup of members of the Cannabis Control Commission. And there’s some good news for people with some legal troubles resulting from marijuana. Provisions in the bill permit those with past convictions involving crimes that are no longer illegal to apply to have their records sealed.
Though I don’t agree with every new part of the bill or even that there needed to be any changes from the original ballot, I am glad it’s finally moving forward. As mentioned, the bill is currently sitting on the desk of Gov. Baker and awaiting his signature. Once the bill is officially signed, officials will appoint their respective board members and start accepting applications for marijuana licenses. It may have taken a little extra time, but recreational marijuana stores are on their way.
Written By: CJ Wilcox (@CJWilcox7)
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