Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson on embracing cannabis reform
Boston mayoral candidate and Roxbury City Councilor Tito Jackson recently visited my WEMF Radio show, “The Young Jurks,” and had quite a bit to say about the state of cannabis in Mass, among other things. Our conversation went down just a few days after the House of Representatives advanced a bill—which is now being negotiated and synthesized with a more cannabis-friendly Senate version by yet another special committee—which attempts to trample the will of voters by, among other things, raising the retail marijuana tax rate from 12 percent to 28 percent.
Since Jackson was among the few outspoken politicians who successfully pushed the House to at least remove some language in said horrid bill that would inevitably lock a disproportionate number of people of color out of the cannabis industry, we wasted no time in asking the councilor to dive into the issue.
Are you still against the House marijuana omnibus bill?
I believe what has happened in the state of Massachusetts has been a miscarriage of justice … The people, over 1.8 million of them, their voice actually should carry forward … If the folks at the State House wanted to actually legislate this, why didn’t they doggone legislate it? Why did the people have to put a ballot question forward to legalize, regulate, and tax adult use of cannabis?
How would your Mayoral administration handle marijuana licensing?
As mayor of the City of Boston I look forward to ensuring that shops are open, that they are expedited in their opening … Unlike our current mayor, let me make this distinction, Mayor Marty Walsh was absolutely categorically against the legalization, regulation, taxation of adult use of cannabis in the state of Massachusetts, and he stood on the side of the alcohol industry and he stood on the side of Governor Baker, opposing the people in the City of Boston, because resoundingly people in the City of Boston said this is the direction we should go …
The reason why I did it? There has been a racist war on drugs for decades in this state. In 2008, possession of marijuana was legal, but if you were black between 2008 and 2016, you had a 330 percent higher chance of being arrested [for marijuana than white people] …
I do have to quote Tupac right now: “Instead of a war on poverty, they have a war on drugs so the police can bother me” When it comes down to it, we have been wrong in this, and sadly Mayor Walsh was unwilling to state that the state had been wrong.
The MassCann/NORML Boston Freedom Rally on the Common has sued the city six times in state court to get their permits, five times under the Menino administration and once with Mayor Walsh. What would you do as mayor to ensure that doesn’t have to occur again?
I believe we should have a city government that is based on democracy, accountability, and transparency, and it should be scandal-free. The Freedom Rally, the folks that want to celebrate their right in the City of Boston should be able to come to the oldest public park in America. We would welcome you versus having to fight us. General Electric didn’t need to get a permit … Do you need a helipad for the Freedom Rally?
And on the Walsh Boston Calling music fest indictments?
You would never have a situation [like that] under a Mayor Jackson administration, especially if you are bringing Nas—especially if you are bringing Nas—but seriously, they should have had no problems, their licenses should have been expedited, not held. When bad things happen to an organization like Boston Calling, that indicates to others that Boston is not open for business.
How [could a Mayor Jackson] bring accountability to Boston Police Department?
I have been the chief proponent on the City Council for body cams for every single police officer. We have been sued for $38 million dollars over the past seven years, if that’s not a compelling enough thought. I will also be calling for a civilian review board with subpoena powers to actually review the actions of the police department.
Councilor Jackson confesses to his own cannabis experimentation…
Let me get this off my chest, I did actually inhale, I didn’t roll it though, I have to tell you about my trip to Amsterdam … I am on record … I have partaken, that’s why as mayor of the City of Boston I would expedite, but we need to kill that [House] bill. I truly appreciate the language changes in regards to minorities, but I think the tax is still too high and the heroes are the ones in the cannabis industry that brought us here and not the people at the State House, so hands off on our ballot initiative, leave it to the voters.
Join the Young Jurks and other cannabis rights organizers outside of Mass House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s home in Winthrop on Thursday at 6pm for a peaceful rally. The speaker hasn’t listened to voters thus far, so we need to get our message to him directly.
Mike Crawford is a Massachusetts medical cannabis patient and founder of The Young Jurks and midnightmass.substack.com. You can listen to The Young Jurks on iTunes or wherever else podcasts are streamed. This article was produced with support from Midnight Mass and The Young Jurks, where your contributions are greatly appreciated and help us deliver more local coverage.