Lawmakers were hopeful Monday that a compromise could be reached over revisions to the state’s voter-approved recreational marijuana law, but key differences remained between proposals offered by House and Senate leaders.
Taxes and the extent of local control over retail pot shops were highlights of disagreement among members of the Legislature’s Marijuana Policy Committee, which has been weighing changes in the law that legalized adult use of the drug.
The House bill sets a 28 percent tax on marijuana sales while the Senate would hold the rate at the maximum 12 percent prescribed by the current law.
Rep. Mark Cusack, the House chair of the marijuana committee, said the higher tax rate was justified because of the “many unknowns” associated with implementing and regulating marijuana sales in Massachusetts.
“It’s always easier up here on Beacon Hill to be for a tax cut than a tax increase,” said Cusack, a Braintree Democrat. “That’s why you want to start high and you can always bring it down. That’s what other states have done.”
Among states that had previously legalized recreational marijuana, Washington has a 37 percent tax, Colorado 27.9 percent, and Oregon’s tax is 17 percent after being lowered from 25 percent.
Critics of the House bill contend Massachusetts should instead start low and increase the tax later if necessary. Too high a tax initially, they say, would keep the underground market alive by discouraging consumers from buying pot legally.
Some Democratic senators appeared open to going above the current tax.
“We don’t want to be extreme and go too far, but I do believe 12 percent is too low,” said Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry of Boston. “Twenty-eight percent is too high. So we have to come to a place in the middle.”
Dorcena Forry said she hopes some of the revenue