By THE ASSOCIATED PRESSDecember 31, 2016
BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker has signed a bill aimed at delaying the opening of marijuana shops in Massachusetts, approved by voters in a ballot initiative in November, until mid-2018.
A spokeswoman said Mr. Baker shared a desire with state lawmakers to thoroughly prepare for the start of a new industry distributing a controlled substance. But the spokeswoman, Lizzy Guyton, said the governor was “committed to adhering to the will of the voters by implementing the new law as effectively and responsibly as possible.”
Mr. Baker signed the bill on Friday as a small group of marijuana activists protested outside the Statehouse.
Members of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws faulted lawmakers for passing the bill during end-of-year sessions and said the delay “flies in the face of the will of the voters” who approved the ballot question legalizing the drug.
The House and Senate passed the bill Wednesday without a public hearing and without debate during informal sessions in both chambers. Only a handful of lawmakers were present.
The ballot initiative, which allows adults 21 and over to possess and use limited amounts of marijuana and grow as many as a dozen marijuana plants in their homes, was approved by about 53 percent of voters on Nov. 8 and took effect Dec. 15.
The bill signed by the governor does not change that. But what it is almost certain to do is push back the timetable for the opening of retail marijuana stores from the beginning of 2018 until the middle of that year.
The State Senate president, Stan Rosenberg, and the House speaker, Robert DeLeo, both Democrats, said pushing back the deadlines will give lawmakers more time to consider issues that were not addressed in the ballot question.
Among the dozen or so protesters outside