A bill that makes major changes to the voter-approved recreational marijuana bill, including higher taxes and more control for local officials over pot shops, has advanced out of a joint legislative committee, although not without controversy.

None of the seven senators on the Legislature's Marijuana Policy Committee voted in favor of the bill, which would tax recreational marijuana at 28 percent for consumers. Some House members also expressed reservations.

In an interview with WBSM's Brian Thomas, Jim Borghesani, Communications Director for Regulate Mass, said that's because there was no collaboration on the bill.

"Incredibly, there was no collaboration on this bill. Even the Senate Chair had no idea what was in this bill before it was released to the media (Tuesday) night," Borghesani said. "This is Massachusetts lawmaking at its very worst."

Borghesani said part of the problem is that even though the bill was supposed to be crafted by the joint committee, only the House portion worked on the bill that was introduced Wednesday, and many of the rest had no idea what was in it.

The proposal would more than double the current 12 percent tax on recreational marijuana. It was also revealed that due to a possible drafting error, the compounded tax rate could go as high as 55 percent, higher than any other U.S. state where recreational marijuana is legal.

"Taxes are now, if this moves forward, will be the highest taxes in the nation," he said. "The way they have structured the tax scheme, taxes will be imposed at every transaction level."

Borghesani said that means it will be taxed when the cultivator sells it to the wholesaler, and when the wholesaler sells it to the retailer, in addition to the taxes paid by the consumer upon purchase.

He said his organization had originally proposed the 12 percent tax rate because it should be at a point where it will eliminate the black market, but also bring in enough tax revenue to support the enforcement of laws associated with the sale of recreational marijuana.

"By doing what they are doing now, they are giving a huge welcome to drug dealers, (saying) 'We want you to continue to stay in business. We're giving you the ability to undercut the legal market,'" he said. "This is the exact opposite of what a good, strong regulatory marijuana system should do."

"They have weakened it both in the tax level, and the governing structure. They have weakened what was voted on by the people in every possible way," he said.

House leaders have decided to postpone debate on the bill. The House was to take up the measure Thursday, but Speaker Robert DeLeo announced after a closed-door caucus of House Democrats that a vote would be put off until at least next week.

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