What do you do if you’re a doctor on a battlefield of broken bodies? You ignore those who will probably live and those who will probably die and concentrate on those who could go either way. It’s called triage.
In the spirit of triage, the officers of cannabis advocacy group MassCann/NORML recently met with two lobbyists who are currently working on assignment for them, Jack Hall and Tara Zeltner, in an effort to focus on a small number of issues where our efforts could make the most difference in the next few weeks, when many possible changes to the current marijuana law may be decided on. We emerged with four key provisions:
- The state Department of Agriculture should oversee everything about cultivation till the marijuana or hemp leaves the farm. Cannabis is a plant, and at the ag department they know about plants.
- Medical dispensaries must be allowed to open as recreational outlets promptly on July 1, 2018, or else we’ll have about three stores open when Trump seeks reelection.
- Employers must treat marijuana use like alcohol use. Marijuana users aren’t criminals and mustn’t be treated like criminals.
- Previous convictions for nonviolent marijuana offenses should be not just sealed, but expunged. This is important, not just as a matter of decency, but to make sure the cannabis industry isn’t exclusively reserved to those who have never had anything to do with marijuana.
Some important issues aren’t represented here. Homegrow is a crucial issue, but the current 12-plant limit seems unlikely to be reduced, while the prospect of expanding the limit or lifting it altogether appears dead, at least for this session. Sen. Rosenberg’s proposal to raise the minimum age from 21 to 25 is a monstrous idea, but thankfully it also appears to be stillborn.
What you can do: visit DefendQuestion4.org to find your state rep and senator. Email them to express your concerns. Even better, call the office and speak with a staffer (briefly and politely). Your stories can be powerful, particularly if you have had trouble finding work or housing because of a marijuana conviction or marijuana use. Your legislators also need to hear from you if you’re a farmer and would like to grow marijuana or hemp. Remember that if a state legislator hears from four or five constituents about an issue, that’s a flood of voter concern. So make yourself a raging current that flows irresistibly onward. If enough people do so, it will be hard for even the Massachusetts legislature to make freedom paddle backwards.
Andy Gaus is a Massachusetts-based cannabis advocate and a member of MassCann-NORML.