[Ed. Note: Over the past month, we have lent this space to advocates from various corners of the cannabis reform community, and we encourage you to read all their contributions. To follow last week’s close examination of the unraveling of Bay State Repeal, this week’s guest is Andy Gaus, a BSR backer, who offers a look at the long road ahead. Oh, and while we have you here, sorry for not covering the trip taken to Colorado by Massachusetts lawmakers who are allegedly learning about cannabis. They’ve never been too interested in what the experts here in Boston have to say, which we’re happy to remind you is why voters always turn to ballot initiatives on cannabis issues in the first place.]
Well, Bay State Repeal didn’t make it. Our vision for cannabis legalization may have been superior to that of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA)—even the Boston Globe said so—but our initiative didn’t get enough signatures.
Now, the only voter option left for the 2016 ballot is a measure that will end up making lawbreakers out of most of us. It will be illegal to grow more than 6 plants, even seedlings, to transport more than one ounce, or even to have more than an ounce lying around unlocked in your own home. Legal businesses will struggle with taxes of 10 to 12 percent, and with whatever regulations the new Cannabis Control Commission comes up with. The black market will probably continue. And stores won’t open until 2018.
But the CRMLA bill is not all bad. It doesn’t create a cartel as the failed Ohio initiative would have done. It doesn’t completely prohibit home grows like in Washington State. Taxes won’t be as high as in Colorado. Importantly, marijuana-related arrests will surely plummet. And even the restrictions mentioned above will probably not generate a cavalcade of SWAT teams busting down doors to find those two ounces that were left unlocked. So I, for one, am ready to hold my nose and support CRMLA.
When I get too caught up in these legislative details, I like to think back to my home state of Indiana in the 1940s. Back then, so I’m told, it was against the law to join some friends at a neighboring table in a restaurant and bring your drink with you. Too rowdy. You had to ask the server to move your drink. Thinking of that helps me draw back and take the long view: at some point that law was repealed or fell into disuse. Absurdities can die.
Soon enough, today’s babies will be grown, and they will smirk in their turn at the quaint strictures of medical marijuana. “What?” they will titter. “You needed a doctor’s recommendation to buy weed?” They will also have a good laugh about the prissy provisions of the CRMLA bill if it passes. But with any luck the worst of those provisions will have gone the way of Indiana’s drink-moving statute. In fact, I predict that the provision about leaving more than one ounce unlocked will be a dead letter from day one.
Of course, laws can also take a turn for the worse. Some legislators will be dreaming up ways to make legal cannabis unworkable and hamper it at every turn. But at this point, the tide of legal marijuana cannot simply be turned back again. So join me now—including those of you at neighboring tables—in a toast to legal marijuana in 2016!