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Saugus – April 15, 2022

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By Bob Katzen

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  THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of April 4-8. There were no roll calls in the House last week.



  Senate 39-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that makes changes in the cannabis industry including creating a social equity fund, to provide grants and loans, including forgivable and no-interest loans, designed to assist entrepreneurs and businesses from communities disproportionately harmed by the decades of marijuana prohibition.

  Another key provision would permit cities and towns, either through a voter referendum or by an act of the City Council or Board of Selectmen, to allow the sale of marijuana and marijuana products for consumption on the premises where they are sold.

  Supporters explained that opening an average cannabis retail shop can require up to $1.5 million. They noted that since federal cannabis laws prevent these businesses from accessing traditional bank loans, lack of capital can pose an insurmountable barrier.

  “I’m proud that when the Senate and the Legislature legalized the commercial marijuana industry in 2017, we prioritized the creation of a first-in-the-nation equity program,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “Unfortunately, many barriers continue to prevent those historically harmed by marijuana prohibition from entering the industry. Today’s bill takes important steps to address these by providing resources to support social equity businesses and putting guardrails in place on the Host Community Agreement process.”

  “When we passed recreational cannabis legislation five years ago, we sought to ensure the commonwealth’s budding cannabis industry would be equitable, diverse, and have ample avenues of entry for small-scale and Black and Brown-led entrepreneurship,” said Sen. Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “Regrettably, the Legislature’s intention to build an industry rooted in social justice has not yet been fully realized. Today we are living up to that promise by establishing guardrails on host-community agreements, allowing communities interested in pursuing social consumption sites to do so, and empowering a strong, vibrant, local cannabis industry with a robust cannabis equity fund.”

  “Limiting the cost of operation is part of promoting social equity and repairing harm to communities harmed by War On Drugs, by lowering one of many barriers to entry with the host community agreement reform in this bill,” said Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville). “I hope this new bill is even clearer in stating the intent of the law and the ability of the Cannabis Control Commission to achieve the goals of promoting social equity. High costs of cannabis have helped preserve the illicit market for cannabis and this bill will take significant steps to expand business opportunities and lower costs across the commonwealth.”

  (A “Yes” vote is for the bill).

Sen. Brendan Crighton Yes


  Senate 3-36, rejected an amendment that would require a city or town to hold a voter referendum on any proposal that would allow the sale of marijuana and marijuana products for consumption on the premises where they are sold. The amendment would replace language in the bill that gives two options to cities and towns: hold a referendum or have the option to give the authority to the City Council or Board of Selectmen.

  Amendment supporters said that the voters, not city or town officials, should have the final say on whether to allow these businesses to operate in the community.

  “If you believe in democracy and full participation and allowing every voter to weigh in, and most of us do, then you would be in support of this amendment,” said amendment sponsor Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).

  Amendment opponents said cities and towns should have both the referendum option and the local officials’ option, which will save the costs of holding a referendum.

  The main opponent of the amendment, Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston) did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on the amendment.

  (A “Yes” vote is for allowing only a referendum. A “No” vote is for allowing a referendum or a vote by local officials).

Sen. Brendan Crighton No



  Senate 8-31, rejected an amendment that would create a state-funded Host Community Technical Assistance Fund to help cities and towns in developing and negotiating Home Community Agreements (HCAs)—which are agreements between a city or town and the business looking to open a marijuana-related business in the community.

  “If we are going to put so much stock in HCAs and put stringent requirements on their accounting and execution, then we ought to be helping municipalities that may not have the ability to negotiate and develop the kind of agreements that we all hope to have,” said amendment sponsor Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).

  Amendment opponents said the fund is not necessary and noted that the bill includes the creation of a model agreement on which cities and towns can base their agreements without spending a lot of money. They also noted cities and towns can use the 3 percent tax that local communities are already entitled to levy on the businesses.

  The main opponent of the amendment, Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston,) did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on the amendment.

  (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Brendan Crighton No



  Senate 39-0, approved an amendment that would create a Special Commission on Drugged Driving to do research on the development of technology and methods that would reliably test individuals suspected of operating motor vehicles under the influence of marijuana. The commission would submit an annual report, beginning January 1, 2024 of its findings and recommendation for legislation.

  “From what we have seen in Massachusetts and other states where marijuana has been legalized, there has been an uptick in incidents of driving under the influence of cannabis and this remains a significant public safety issue,” said Sen. Mike Moore (D-Millbury). “Drugged driving has long been an issue here in the commonwealth; however, the lack of a reliable test for individuals operating motor vehicles under the influence of marijuana has posed challenges to law enforcement. This amendment creates a commission to help ensure that we remain vigilant to advancements in technology and have updated policies for court proceedings to keep our roadways safe.”

  (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

Sen. Brendan Crighton Yes



  Senate 39-0, approved a bill that would require the state to develop and implement a Women’s Rights History Trail Program. The measure includes requiring the state to designate properties and sites that are historically and thematically associated with the struggle for women’s rights and women’s suffrage. Another provision provides that the state promote education and awareness of the struggle for women’s rights in the state. A 13-member Women’s Rights History Trail Task Force would be formed to research, solicit public input and make recommendations for sites, properties and attractions to be included in the trail.

  The House has already approved its own version of the bill. The Senate version now goes to the House for consideration.

  “Massachusetts has a rich history of involvement in the women’s rights movement,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem). “Women have had a pivotal role in shaping the policies of our commonwealth, and this bill will ensure that those contributions are known and celebrated … The history of these women is our history, and we must continue to advance that history forward.”

  “Women in Massachusetts have played a pivotal role at every step in the commonwealth’s history, yet their contributions are too often overlooked,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “The Women’s Rights History Trail will serve as a visible monument to the history of women—and the women’s rights movement. Understanding this history gives us all a chance to reflect on where we have come from and what it means to leave a legacy that can uplift and inspire future generations. I am glad to see that this trail will give particular attention to the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of the women who have transformed Massachusetts.”

  The House approved the bill in the 2019-2020 session on September 18, 2020 and sent it to the Senate Ways and Means Committee where it died without further action and without a vote by the Senate.

  (A “Yes” vote is for the bill).

Sen. Brendan Crighton Yes


  HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? Beacon Hill Roll Call tracks the length of time that the House and Senate were in session each week. Many legislators say that legislative sessions are only one aspect of the Legislature’s job and that a lot of important work is done outside of the House and Senate chambers. They note that their jobs also involve committee work, research, constituent work and other matters that are important to their districts. Critics say that the Legislature does not meet regularly or long enough to debate and vote in public view on the thousands of pieces of legislation that have been filed. They note that the infrequency and brief length of sessions are misguided and lead to irresponsible late-night sessions and a mad rush to act on dozens of bills in the days immediately preceding the end of an annual session.

  During the week of April 4-8, the House met for a total of 36 minutes and the Senate met for a total of five hours and 46 minutes


Mon. April 4 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:27 a.m.

                      Senate 11:20 a.m. to 11:31 a.m.


Tues. April 5 No House session

                       No Senate session


Wed. April 6 No House session

                      No Senate session


Thurs. April 7 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:16 a.m.

                         Senate 11:16 a.m. to 4:51 p.m.


Fri. April 8 No House session

                   No Senate session

  Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com Bob founded Beacon Hill Roll Call in 1975 and was inducted into the New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA) Hall of Fame in 2019.

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