Legislature Will Honor Will of Voters to Legalize and Regulate Pot – But…

By: Linda Dean Campbell – Dec. 2016

We should begin discussions to focus upon the concerns of our local communities as well as develop better formulated estimates of cost. We need to start discussions as soon as possible so that the new commission on legalization of marijuana will be aware of our concerns from the beginning. Although the leading proponents of this ballot question generally want to allow the commission to deliberate and make conclusions with a minimum of public input – that would result in easily preventable problems, unnecessary negative consequence, and would likely delay implementation of the measure.

There is no justification why the Legislature cannot or should not solicit testimony from the public and the following groups, as to how best implement this ballot initiative:

Local Leaders: Different communities have real and different concerns. Some of our communities border New Hampshire and, because of both geography and road network, are already a waypoint for illicit drug sales, especially opiates, from suppliers South to points North. Are our communities going to end up as the marijuana market for points North? Additionally, most communities want more say as to how public spaces are defined and where use shall be prohibited. Additionally, they wonder how home grown marijuana can be effectively regulated.

Law Enforcement: Law enforcement has many concerns that, if addressed, will prevent great difficulties later. For instance, one problem with the decriminalization ballot measure passed several years ago is that the $100 civil fine for use in public cannot practically be enforced because individuals are not obligated to correctly identify themselves or produce identification to the police when caught. What will be effective fines and penalties that aim to prevent impaired driving?

Medical Personnel: We have many experts here in the Commonwealth on this topic who can help us protect our youth and inform us in regards to what we should anticipate in the evolution of marijuana products. We need to prepare for regulating synthetic marijuana and for regulating strains of marijuana developed to be far more potent.

Regulators, Inspectors and Code Enforcers: We should get expert testimony on how we can and should inspect both retail establishments and enforce limits on home growers. We need to accurately estimate how much effective regulation will cost the State and bring in through offsetting revenues. It is necessary to set up a regulatory process before we launch. Based upon the information available from other states, this will likely cost between 15 and 30 million dollars.

While I understand the desire of the industry and proponents to move forward quickly, we must keep in mind that it is the Legislature’s responsibility to develop the laws that implement any ballot initiative in a manner that best serves the people of our Commonwealth.

Linda Dean Campbell is a state representative in Massachusetts representing Methuen and Haverhill.