Out of nowhere, Sen. Patricia Jehlen, chair of the Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy, tells the Boston Globe that she wants to eliminate the one-year head start that the adult use referendum gives to experienced medical marijuana operators to apply for licenses. She tells the Globe:
But there are areas where Jehlen is keen to see the law changed. One is leveling the playing field, so medical marijuana companies don’t have what Jehlen called “an artificial leg up” in the retail market.
Current law gives most companies that held provisional and final medical marijuana licenses by the end of last year an advantage. They can apply 12 months before anyone else for the right to legally sell and process recreational pot. And those same companies can apply for a license to grow recreational marijuana two years before anyone else, giving them what’s expected to be a profitable window of exclusivity.
The rationale, the authors of the law said, was because the companies spent a lot of money getting their operations off the ground. And from a regulatory standpoint, it made sense to let experienced people to have first dibs. Backers also said this was a way to encourage companies to continue offering medical cannabis.
But Jehlen said she wants to see the playing field leveled in the law so new entrants to the legal marijuana industry — including small farmers, and people from minority communities disproportionately impacted by pot prohibition — can have an equal chance to get into the commercial pot market.
It goes without saying that these statements will cause a stir and frenzy among those dogging this issue on Beacon Hill. Look to Sen. Jehlen’s co-chair, Rep. Mark Cusak, to tamp this idea down or give it more momentum. Whether the one-year head start is a good or bad idea, this just shows what happens when the Legislature tries to amend a very detailed referendum that they had no part in drafting.