Lawmakers in Massachusetts were set to hold a hearing Wednesday on legislation that would legalize and tax marijuana in the state. The sponsor, House Rep. David Rogers, was scheduled to join Dick Evans, chairman of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, to talk about House Bill 1561 before testifying at 1 p.m. EST. The bill, called the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016, is separate from a ballot initiative on the issue voters could see in November.
“It’s time for Massachusetts to replace the failed policy of marijuana prohibition with a more sensible system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol,” Evans told the Weed Blog. “Whether it happens in the legislature or at the ballot box, the result will be the same."
The campaign is pushing for legislation that would allow adults to have and use marijuana they buy at registered outlets and cafes starting in 2018. They could grow marijuana at home as long as they don't intend to sell or transport it, according to the Daily Chronic. Marijuana sales would be taxed on top of sales tax.
In addition, adults' criminal marijuana convictions would be expunged. Minors caught with pot would be fined $100.
Wednesday's hearing coincides with a legislator field trip to Colorado to learn about how the state has handled legal marijuana. Eight state senators will visit a dispensary and grow facility there this week, the Boston Globe reported.
"We want to make sure we’re ready to deal with all of the policy ramifications that would come from [the ballot question], in terms of public health impacts, public safety, creating a whole new industry,” state Sen. Jason Lewis told WBZ-TV.
Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Washington, D.C. have all legalized recreational marijuana. Massachusetts has only decriminalized the drug and allowed it to be used for medical purposes.