Skyline view of Boston, Massachusetts on a cloudy day.

Bert Kaufmann

The Massachusetts Marijuana Conference Committee is seeking to raise the tax rate on the voter-approved recreational cannabis industry to 20 percent – a compromise with their colleagues who want the rate to remain at the 12 percent called for in November’s initiative, according to a report from Boston Business Journal. The committee’s proposal also keeps the ability to ban the industry from municipalities in the hands of voters.

State Sen. Patricia Jehlen, a member of the committee, said the measure “removes the barriers to the development of a legal market” while protecting the “right of adults to grow, possess, and use” cannabis.

“It protects the rights of medical marijuana patients, and gives opportunity to farmers and to people who have been harmed by the War on Drugs,” she said in the report. “The tax rate remains among the lowest in the country, and the same as in Oregon, often seen as successful.”

Under previous legislative proposals, the House had pushed for a 21.75 percent rate, while the Senate wanted to keep the rate at 12 percent. The measure, which requires the approvals of both chambers, pushes the excise tax provided under the initiative from 3.75 percent to 10.75 percent. It includes a 1 percent increase on the local option excise tax – from 2 percent to 3 percent. State taxes will also apply to recreational cannabis sales. Medical sales would remain untaxed.

Additionally, the bill would allow some cannabis convictions to be expunged; specifies that funds generated from the market will be used for “restorative justice, jail diversion, workforce development, and technical business assistance for people in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs;” legalize hemp production in the state; and gives directives to the Cannabis Control Commission regarding product marketing, labeling, and safety.

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