Massachusetts legislators voted Wednesday to approve a bill that overturns significant portions of the marijuana-legalization law that 1.8 million voters approved just last month.
There were no public hearings and no formal public notice, but the Boston Globe reports that it took lawmakers on Beacon Hill less than an hour to pass the measure that would delay the opening of recreational-marijuana shops in the state by six months—from January to July 2018.
The measure was sent to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who has been opposed to legalization, for approval, and the Globe reports that late Wednesday, he called the six-month delay “perfectly appropriate.”
Lawyer and longtime legalization activist Steven S. Epstein told the Globe that legislators are “delusional” because “54 percent of the people voted for it.”
Marijuana Majority founder and Marijuana.com journalist Tom Angell said in a message to The Root, “It’s absolutely insane that in our American democracy, a single-digit number of legislators can, in a matter of minutes with very little notice, override the will of nearly 2 million voters.”
As the Globe notes, part of the law, which legalizes possession and homegrown marijuana, took effect Dec. 15 and wouldn’t change under the measure, but the state is now in a legal gray area. It is legal to possess marijuana but illegal to sell it.
Adults 21 and over can legally purchase, possess, grow and use marijuana, but anyone selling it is breaking the law, and until the regulated retail market starts, there will be no oversight of recreational sales, such as testing for contaminants.
Boston activist Robin Jacks noted on Twitter Wednesday that both Democratic state Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo receive major donations from the alcohol lobby.
“The vote was completely undemocratic and undermines the will of the people. The implications are dire; only seven legislators showed up, yet this vote counts. What else could they do?” Jacks told The Root.
Arsenal for Democracy radio-show host Bill Humphrey, a member of the Executive Committee of Newton Democrats, agreed.
"The Legislature’s choice to ram through revisions to the recently overwhelmingly passed marijuana-referendum law runs counter to the entire spirit of the ballot-initiative system," Humphrey told The Root.
"Regardless of one’s opinion on the specific marijuana law at hand, this type of legislative chicanery severely erodes public confidence in both our representative and direct democracy," Humphrey added. "The initiative system exists to give the people a say when the Legislature won’t act, and now six or seven legislators—without even the full backing of their fellow members—suddenly act unilaterally after badly losing at the ballot box? If you don’t like the outcome in a democracy, learn to campaign better; don’t just cancel democracy."
According to the Globe, it is unclear how many legislators were present for the vote. Formal sessions have already ended, and no roll-call votes are permitted during informal sessions, which means that none of the legislators who voted Wednesday are on the record with their abstentions or support.
“I just can’t wrap my head around why lawmakers would want to delay people from being able to go into a regulated, taxpaying, job-creating store to buy marijuana,” Angell told The Root. “It’s not as if fewer people are going to now use cannabis between now and then; they’ll either just grow it themselves or, worse, buy it on the unregulated black market. Today’s vote was a strike against democracy, common sense and public safety."
Read more at the Boston Globe.