The Colorado Experience In Legalizing Marijuana
When it comes to legalizing marijuana for recreational use here Massachusetts, most public officials are against it. Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Attorney General Maura Healey all say they would vote no on a possible ballot initiative next November.
And on Monday, the chair of the Special Senate Committee on Marijuana, state Sen. Jason Lewis told Radio Boston that he, too, is against legalizing pot in the Commonwealth.
“Opening the door to legalization will no doubt send a message that marijuana is safe,” Sen. Lewis warned. “It will likely lead to more young people, even more than today, using the product. And opening the door to a commercial market is then going to lead to advertising and marketing and celebrity sponsorships and many of the strategies we’ve seen used by the tobacco industry in the past.”
Lewis spent months looking into the subject, including traveling to Colorado, where recreational pot is legal. We check in with Colorado’s lead policy expert about how that state is faring since the first recreational marijuana sales started two years ago, and what lessons it could provide for other states.
- “Opening the door to legalization will no doubt send a message that marijuana is safe. It will likely lead to more young people, even more than today, using the product. And opening the door to a commercial market is then going to lead to advertising and marketing and celebrity sponsorships and many of the strategies we’ve seen used by the tobacco industry in the past.”
- “In four states — Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Colorado — recreational marijuana use is permitted and it’s likely that Massachusetts will vote on the issue in 2016.”
- “The consensus among several top state officials — who emphasize that their job is to carry out the will of the voters rather than mull whether their constituents made the right choice — is that there have been no widely felt negative effects on the state since marijuana became legal, and a crop of retail stores, cultivation facilities, and manufacturers sprung up from Aurora to Telluride.”
- “Can we create a regulated market that more effectively keeps marijuana out of the hands of children than the status quo? Or will we create a system where commercialization and availability creates more substance abuse? What are the proper roles and responsibilities for cities, states, and the federal government? How will we define and measure success? And what will we do if things go wrong?”
- “Without a bank account, pot businesses deal in cash, lots of it, held in safes, handed out in clipped bundles on payday, carried in brown paper bags and cardboard boxes to the tax office and the utility company, ferried around the state by armored vehicles and armed guards. And without access to essential banking services — from credit cards to electronic transfers to loans — those businesses pay a huge premium. The reality in Colorado is that it is legal to grow pot but extremely hard to grow a pot business.”
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