Marijuana legalization for recreational use may be coming to Massachusetts in 2016. To prepare for it, a group of Massachusetts State senators is visiting Colorado this week to evaluate the state’s experience with regulating the drug.
The Boston Globe reports that a Senate Special Committee on Marijuana was formed last year to look at the very real possibility of Massachusetts voters approving recreational weed in 2016. The visit to Colorado, which started Monday, will include discussions with Colorado state regulators, legislators, and members of law enforcement.
Massachusetts Senator Jason Lewis is one of 10 representatives visiting the state to learn how recreational cannabis could influence the state. “We have recognized all along that the best way to really learn about the impact of legalizing marijuana is to spend time on the ground in the state that has the most experience with it, and that is Colorado,” he said.
The Committee has a lot of questions for Colorado regulators. During the four-day trip, senators will be asking about the process to track marijuana products from seed to sale, how the police will handle weed-influenced drivers, advertising and marketing restrictions, as well as how to deal with home growers.
“With the pending ballot initiative to legalize marijuana, the Senate Special Committee on Marijuana is thoroughly examining all of the ramifications this might have on the residents of Massachusetts,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg
Marijuana legalization advocacy group, The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, has been pushing for Massachusetts to change its drug laws to match other states that have legalized recreational weed. Last year, the organization received more than enough petition signatures to bring the cannabis question to voters in 2016.
The group is proposing Massachusetts allow adults, 21 and over, to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Additionally, a 3.75 percent tax would be added to retail sales of weed on top of the state’s current 6.25 percent sales tax.
Should marijuana legalization occur, the group proposes a new “Cannabis Control Commission” be created and made up of state-appointed representatives to oversee a system of marijuana stores, growing facilities, and makers of edible products like chocolate bars.
Another advocacy group, Bay State Repeal, wants a much more liberal marijuana law. The group is promoting marijuana use with less restrictions and taxes to stay at or under the 6.25 percent sales tax. They want marijuana to be treated the same as any other retail product, with the only restriction being a prohibition of sales to minors.
In a related Inquisitr report, voters in Massachusetts have already approved the decriminalization of weed in small amounts, as well as allowing patients with certain medical conditions to use the drug. However, the rollout of the law was slow to implement and filled with regulatory problems.
Lewis hopes the trip to Colorado will help them create better public policy and procedures should any new marijuana legalization laws be enacted in 2016.
Still, Lewis fears the increased complications that come with trying to regulate recreational weed. Compliance with federal law, licensing, taxes, and public safety all have unique issues that will need to be dealt with and thoroughly considered beforehand.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and state Attorney General Maura Healey are defiantly opposed to legalizing marijuana. After several discussions with experts in the addiction, education, and public health communities, Baker came to the conclusion that cannabis legalization is a bad idea.
“I’ve never supported legalizing marijuana, and nothing’s going to change about that,” Baker said.
The visit to Colorado is being funded by New York-based Milbank Memorial Fund, a nonprofit organization that promotes health policy. Fund president, Christopher F. Koller, said the organization is not for or against marijuana legalization, but instead wants to encourage the ability of state representatives to make good health policy.
To prepare for marijuana legalization in Massachusetts, the Committee plans on releasing a report and policy recommendations to the full Senate sometime early 2016.
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