Rosenberg: We’re not done with pot

Senate president says Legislature could make more changes to marijuana law

SENATE PRESIDENT STANLEY ROSENBERG said the recreational marijuana law will continue to evolve and he foresees the Legislature making several changes a year.

“We created a joint standing committee because we know additional questions are going to come back to us over time and we know that because that’s what happened in Colorado,” Rosenberg said in an interview following a State House News Service forum on the new law and emerging regulations. “We’ll have two, three, four issues a year that people will come to us and say ‘we have to fix this, we have to fix that.’”

Rosenberg also predicted that with nine states now having legal recreational pot and 30 legalizing medical marijuana, the federal government will have to recognize the trend and stop treating marijuana as an illegal controlled substance.

“It’s inevitable that at some point the federal government is going to have to change,” said Rosenberg, who was one of the few elected officials on Beacon Hill to support efforts to pass the ballot question that made marijuana legal. “It will be legalized [by federal officials] sometime.”

Rosenberg was on one of two panels that talked about the potential for the projected billion-dollar industry and its impact on the health and economy of the state. Much of the conversation with Rosenberg’s panel focused on the hesitancy by many communities to allow retail sales in their boundaries.

Jim Smith, a partner with Smith, Costello, and Crawford and a former state representative in the 1970s who spearheaded a drive to decriminalize individual possession, said cities and towns that ban recreational sales, cultivation, and processing are turning their back on a revenue source as well as ignoring reality.

“It is already in your town,” said Smith, referring to the illegal market. “It is in your middle school. This is a real issue.”

Rosenberg concurred. “The product is out there, it’s being sold today,” he said. “It’s just not being taxed or regulated.”

Rosenberg said he has some concerns about so-called “marijuana deserts” – wide stretches of the state where marijuana won’t be available legally. He said such deserts would be problematic, but he said the potential for revenue gains from licensing retail outlets could help overcome reticence by local communities to accept the establishments. He said the range of tax estimates in the state is based on the availability and access to pot, revenue projections that could help a lot of areas and a lot of programs in the state.

“We had $75 million as the lowest estimate,” said Rosenberg, referring to calculations of tax revenue based on the 17 percent state tax and 3 percent local tax on retail marijuana. “The higher end is $200 million. We’re not doing this for money but, given the fact we’ll have extra revenues, I’m happy we’re going to go beyond the revenue necessary to regulate the industry.”

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman said at the outset of the forum that his board is scrambling to get regulations drafted by mid-December to meet the deadlines set out by the legislation. By law, the commission has to have the regulations promulgated by March 15 and begin accepting applications for retail, cultivation, manufacturing, and testing beginning April 1. The earliest the board can issue permits and licenses is June 1 with the target date of July 1 for opening stores. But the July 1 date is not written in stone, he said.

“Our mission is honoring the will of the voters by safely, carefully, and equitably implementing the law,” Hoffman told the audience of about 200 people. July 1 is “not a legislative requirement but certainly an expectation. We don’t want to do it fast; we want to do it right.”