Image by Kent Buckley
You might say forming a so-called Special Senate Committee on Marijuana—that is staffed by politicians who mostly know little to nil about cannabis, legal or otherwise—is like having a task force on snow full of Hawaiians.
In Massachusetts though, the laws that govern how we live and die tend to be crafted not by experts, or by people who are even remotely knowledgeable about the areas they are impacting, but rather by the mediocre minds steering government. From an octogenarian judge who didn’t know the difference between a download and an upload making rulings in the case of Sony BMG v. Tenenbaum, which set major precedents regarding online music, to our veritable surveillance state in which the largest legislative donors win the most lucrative security contracts, it’s clear that our Commonwealth is run by an incompetent confederacy of fences.
All things considered, we’re skeptical about the recently announced addition of nine new senators to said cannabis panel, which up until now has been a one man show headed by Sen. Jason Lewis of Winchester. As the State House News Service reported, this was significant because, according to Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, “senators had shied away from the panel [in the past] out of concern that studying the legalization of cannabis could draw the ire of voters opposed to legalization.”
What’s most important here is that pols want to keep an edge on the two activist camps rallying for legalization next year on starkly different terms—even though Rosenberg now says legislators won’t tackle the cannabis question head-on. Since they may be a factor down the line, we slid some members of the Special Senate Committee on Marijuana under our microscope …
First there are the relative heroes—Sen. Michael Moore stood up against cannabis ignorance all the way back when such stances actually were less popular. The same goes for Sen. Harriette Chandler, who prudently welcomed dispensaries to Worcester, and who told reporters, “Like it or not, the people of Massachusetts voted. This is the law of the land.” Another nod goes to Sen. James Welch, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, who recently told MassLive, “I do believe the voters spoke two years ago.”
Then there’s the Neanderthal contingent. Sure to dull the impact of enlightened legislators is Sen. John Keenan of Quincy, who once used a press conference soapbox to declare, “there is no such thing as medical marijuana.” It gets worse, as Keenan once claimed to have “spoken with hundreds of voters regarding the issue of medical marijuana, many of whom voted ‘Yes’ on Question 3, all of whom now believe the law is vague and subject to exploitation.” Sure you did, buddy. Was one of the complainants Sen. Richard Ross, no relation to the Miami coke rapper, who is also serving on the panel, and who in 2009 joined then-state Sen. Scott Brown in sponsoring a bill to recriminalize marijuana in Mass?
Having someone like Ross or Keenan on a panel that may forge the future of cannabis in the Commonwealth is like having a Klan member write Civil Rights law. But let’s say this commission really does want to be helpful—what should they do? Easy, they should join the Boston Globe editorial board in recommending the legislature pass something like the Bay State Repeal (BSR) initiative as law. Otherwise, they can expect voters to take them to task if the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) passes its initiative in 2016.
It’s clear that prohibitionists on Beacon Hill don’t think about much, but if lawmakers think voters are fed up with the slow rollout of the current medical cannabis program, wait until they see what happens with the introduction of another bureaucracy—one as cumbersome as that which is proposed by the CRMLA, no less—to impede voters from safely securing cannabis.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.