Mass. governor signals he'll stall pot shop openings
Gov. Charlie Baker indicated Thursday that he will sign a controversial bill passed by lawmakers that will push the opening of recreational pot shops into the summer of 2018, calling the six-month delay “consistent” with the concerns he’s heard.
Baker, who opposed the ballot question to legalize marijuana that voters approved last month, voiced his support as backers of legalization vowed to protest today at the State House.
They slammed the bill as “an arrogant and cowardly move” by lawmakers who passed it in a sparsely attended informal session.
“I think we’ll probably sign it,” Baker told reporters Thursday in Fall River.
“I’m actually not surprised (by the delay),” he said. “I mean, a six-month delay seems to be consistent with some of the concerns the treasurer had raised and would also fit to some extent with a lot of advice we got from the people from Colorado about setting this up.”
Only a half-dozen lawmakers were present between the House and Senate when the two chambers swiftly passed the legislation Wednesday, resetting various deadlines in the newly passed law. That included the opening of retail marijuana shops, which had been slated for Jan. 1, 2018, but will instead be delayed until July 1, 2018.
The move has infuriated pro-legalization groups, including the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, which urged its supporters to rally at the State House at noon today and for Baker not to sign the “shameful and unwise” bill.
“(We are) appalled at this arrogant and cowardly move,” the group, which is part of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said in a statement.
Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg defended the bill yesterday, saying he had “constant communication” with pro-pot advocates about potential changes. He admitted they had not seen a draft of the legislation before lawmakers passed it without a roll call vote Wednesday, but said it shouldn’t have caught them by surprise.
“They knew exactly what was going to be in the bill,” Rosenberg said on Boston Herald Radio, adding, “This is not the end of the world. It’s a small delay.”
But Rosenberg also warned of more debate to come, saying he expects some lawmakers to attempt to repeal the entire law next year.
“Believe me, people have rights,” the Amherst Democrat, who supported legalization, said. “I’d be very surprised if people didn’t offer an amendment.”