Following legislative review by the recently created Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy, the House and Senate last week approved differing bills that amend the state’s new law legalizing the commercial sale of marijuana. The bills will now move to a House-Senate conference committee to reconcile differences between the two proposals.
The House proposal included a number of changes to the law that would enhance public health protection and are strongly supported by MHA. These include independent testing standards for the safety of products; labeling requirements including an explicit public health warning; opaque and child-proof packaging; potency or dosing limitations on the serving size for marijuana products; an increased excise tax; and dedication of funding to substance use disorder prevention and treatment.
The Senate bill also included independent testing standards, and a robust research agenda to understand the long-term impacts public health impacts of the legalization of commercial marijuana. During the Senate debate, additional amendments supported by MHA were adopted, including enhanced packaging and labeling requirements; earmarked funding to support substance use prevention and early intervention for children through schools and local community coalitions; and strict prohibitions on advertising of marijuana products directed at children.
“Throughout the debate leading up to the ballot question and subsequent consideration of legislative improvements, MHA and its member hospitals have advocated for the enactment of steps to preserve and protect public health in Massachusetts – with a particular focus on preventing harm to children,” MHA President & CEO Lynn Nicholas, FACHE said.
MHA will be analyzing the changes made to both bills during debate that went late into the evening on both Wednesday and Thursday and will make recommendations to the conference committee on the public health priorities that should be included in a final bill that is anticipated to go to Governor Baker’s desk by a self-imposed July 1 deadline.