Lawmakers Address Massachusetts Marijuana Law Changed During ‘Informal Sessions'

Some Massachusetts lawmakers were surprised to learn a few of their colleagues passed a measure changing the marijuana legalization that was approved in last month's election.

"It's funny, everyone talks about 'open and transparent,' except when it comes to the legislature," said State Rep. Jim Lyons.

Lyons, like most state lawmakers, had no idea it was happening during what the legislature calls an "informal session."

"The power brokers use the informal system to pass what they want to pass," Lyons said.

Informal sessions take place between August and December in the second year of the legislative cycle, usually to take care of non-controversial business. They are restricted to less important matters, because it only takes one lawmaker to voice opposition. Conversely, it only takes one Republican and one Democrat to be present to push something through.

"I think this is just a minor change," said Rep. Alice Peisch, who believes the action was necessary because state agencies responsible for implementing the law need more guidance to do it responsibly.

"You can't obstruct or ignore it, but you can tweak it," said former State Sen. George Bachrach. "Simply delaying it a bit to get it right makes some sense."

Lyons thinks there was plenty of time. He agrees with the measure that was passed, but feels the process of pushing controversial legislation during informal sessions is all wrong. He intends to try to change it in 2017, he says.

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