Question Four, the controversial bill that legalized recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, is now law. However, the law does not take effect until July.
How will the Marijuana industry and proponents be impacted by the law’s specifics?
Jim Borghesani, Communications Director for Regulate Mass, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, said that a bad public policy with something he sees as much better. “The biggest issue is what the legislature ultimately will do with the law.” He hopes that the legislature won’t be making any more changes.
Borghesani said that recent efforts by communities to keep dispensaries out of their towns is based in outdated fears.
Some municipal officials who are leading these efforts are also doing it out of fear. Borghesani said, “they are just resorting to the same sort of reefer madness rhetoric that has been drilled into people’s heads for the last hundred years, and we don’t think that’s the right way to look at public policy.”
Marijuana is not going to go away in a community because the residents don’t want a retail store to open. In fact, said Borghesani,
all that’s going to do is ensure that criminals continue to sell marijuana rather than a licensed facility that checks IDs and sells inspected products, so anybody who votes to ban a marijuana establishment should know that they’re doing nothing to keep marijuana out of their towns.
Other states, like Rhode Island, are specifically looking at Massachusetts’ legalization in order to accelerate their legalization efforts.
Borghesani said that the bill will help the Commonwealth in many ways.“We think that it’s a very good bill that creates a tightly regulated structure of licensed marijuana retailers. It will return hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to the state and will displace an illegal market.”
Morgan Fox from the Marijuana Policy Project is working to ensure that the legislature doesn’t overly restrict the voter’s will and also work quickly to assure that they implement regulated sales. “So far, we have eight states as well as the District of Columbia which have made marijuana legal for adult use,“ said Fox.
He also said that towns that choose not to allow dispensaries to open are only hurting themselves.
It’s not going to prevent anyone from using marijuana in that area. All its going to do is make sure that they miss out on the job creation and revenue that comes from allowing these legitimate businesses to open in their areas.
Bill Flynn, President of Masscann/Norml— a marijuana advocacy organization—said that they have gathered four amendments to help strengthen the bill.
His organization proposed an amendment for unlimited growth. With the current law, as a recreational user, one is allowed to have six plants. If there are two adults in the home, then twelve plants are allowed. Flynn said, “You don’t want the police coming into your home to see whether you’re growing six plants or twelve plants.”
Flynn said that the delay in implementation took everyone by surprise.
MassCann/Norml proposed an amendment to end that delay, allowing dispensaries to immediately begin to make and sell retail. Another amendment conceived of by the organization aims to keep the taxes on marijuana low. Flynn said,
If we keep the taxes low in Massachusetts, that will wipe out the so called black or grey market. Prices will drop, we won’t have to worry about constituents from the Commonwealth going to other states to buy their medication.
Flynn also mentioned that many people are worried about driving under the influence of cannabis. He said that Its been proven by a AAA survey that cannabis users are more aware of the fact that they are under the influence. “But they’re regulating their driving, they’re staying within the speed limit, they’re doing everything correctly, they’re in a zen mode. “
Marijuana is here to stay, but how will Massachusetts deal with the issues that rise after legality? The Massachusetts marijuana industry and residents will know more when the law goes into effect this July.