Recreational Marijuana

Weed teach-in set: Session on implementing new pot rules Aug. 31

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PITTSFIELD — While a new law sets terms for recreational marijuana sales in Massachusetts, local officials have a lot to learn.

To jump-start their understanding, the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission will convene a free workshop Aug. 31 in Lenox.

"Towns and cities will have to work on this pretty much immediately," said Nathaniel Karns, the group's executive director. "I'll be learning a lot at this, too."

Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation July 28 that replaces terms of Question 4, the marijuana ballot measure voters approved by a 53.7-46.3 margin last November.

The compromise shaped by the House and Senate increases the taxes that can be charged. It also revamped the terms under which communities can opt out of recreational sales, along with other changes.

At the Lenox workshop, lawyer J. Raymond Miyares will provide an overview of the new law, highlighting decisions municipalities face.

Miyares is expected to discuss zoning policies for retail, growing and processing operations. He'll also review use of a temporary moratorium on retail sales or steps to take to prohibit sales. Miyares will also speak about taxation and the prospects for added municipal revenue.

The new law allows communities to charge up to 3 percent on retail marijuana transactions. If they do, the overall tax will be 20 percent, made up of that local option tax, the 6.25 percent sales tax and a special 10.75 percent excise tax that will go to the state.

The overall tax rate was 12 percent in Question 4.

While the session is designed for local officials, members of the public can attend, Karns said.

"It's to educate us all," he said.

Karns said cities and towns have limited time to set the stage for recreational marijuana sales before they are scheduled to begin July 1. He likened the short timetable involved to the flood of questions that arose over cell telephone towers.

"All of a sudden they were popping up everywhere and nobody had any regulations," he said of those towers.

The workshop is not a forum to express comments for or against legalization, Karns noted. "It's meant to be purely educational."

Reach staff writer Larry Parnass at 413-496-6214 or @larryparnass.


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