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The Globe recently reported that some legislators want to use the informal session to delay the implementation of the new marijuana law. As chair of the Q4 campaign and a long-time marijuana reform advocate in Massachusetts, I write to ask you to please try to block those efforts.
Here are the reasons for delay cited in the Globe article, and my responses:
Claim: That there isn’t enough time for the state treasurer’s office to adopt and implement regulations before January 2018.
Response: Reversing generations-long policies is not business as usual: marijuana legalization is a very big deal for citizens, taxpayers, consumers, businesses and municipalities, and must not be allowed to languish on anyone’s desk. These are extraordinary times; the people have the right to expect extraordinary effort from their agents. If we learn and apply lessons of other legal states, and our own experience with medical marijuana, over a year is more than ample.
Claim: That there hasn’t been time to “look at how the ballot question [is] written.”
Response: The language of the ballot question was filed in the House as H3932 nearly a year ago. That some lawmakers have not found the time to read it is not a deficiency of the law.
Claim: That the tax rate is too low.
Response: The rate was set at 12% on the advice of Coloradans, who found that their higher level (around 25%) sustained the black market. Our plan is to squeeze the black market out in the early years, in expectation that the legislature will raise the tax rate in future years, as with cigarettes.
Claim: “[T]he language regulating marijuana-infused edibles such as brownies [is] too vague.”
Response: The new law specifically requires the Cannabis Control Commission to adopt strict regulations as to labeling and packaging so as to prevent accidental ingestion; the statute is no place for such language.
Claim: The law insufficiently protects under-21s from obtaining marijuana.
Response: So does prohibition, in furtherance of which we have engaged in endless so-called “prevention” campaigns aimed to dissuading young people from trying marijuana in the naïve expectation of lifetime abstinence. Of course marijuana is not for kids, but it’s time to eschew propaganda and scare stories for honesty. We want young people to learn how to avoid problems with marijuana, as we want them to avoid problems with everything else in life. Legalization means that young people can be taught the difference between use and abuse, and we will no longer have to pretend that they are the same.
The statistics out of Colorado are that marijuana use among teens has not increased since pot was legalized and is in line with the national average.
The law as written is more than workmanlike. This is no time for excuses.
Thank you for your support of marijuana reform in the past, and thank you for doing what you can to keep the new law on track.