Image by Kent Buckley
Last week, we learned that Bay State Repeal did not gather enough signatures to qualify its initiative for next November’s ballot. Like most longtime Commonwealth drug policy activists, I was rooting for it. It was a good law written by intelligent volunteers with tremendous passion, and it was backed by some of the people who have been fighting for legalization in Mass longer than anyone.
As a co-drafter of a separate marijuana legalization initiative that is likely to be on the ballot next year, I hope that BSR supporters will now join our effort, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) in Massachusetts. We need to come together to pass legalization and stop wasting resources and ruining lives through marijuana prohibition. Massachusetts deserves to be the next state with a regulated and above-ground marijuana market that will create hundreds of jobs. But we can only do it if we work as a team.
I appreciate the ongoing efforts by The Tokin’ Truth to keep people informed on marijuana laws and the incentives behind them. We need independent reporting to ensure accountability for both the drug policy reform organizations and the marijuana industry. CRMLA’s initiative stands up to all fair scrutiny. Here are the top 5 reasons why supporters of BSR should also support CRMLA:
1—Fair possession and home growing allowances: This law allows adults 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside of their residences and up to 10 ounces of marijuana in an enclosed, locked space within their residences. Possession between one and two ounces outside a residence is only punishable by a civil fine. Furthermore, adults 21 and over may grow up to six marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked space within their residences and possess the marijuana produced by those plants in the location where it was grown, with up to 12 plants permitted to be grown between people living at one residence.
2—Consumption on premises: While public consumption of marijuana would not be allowed, if a city or town permits it by vote, this law would allow for the consumption of marijuana on the premises where sold or on a limited basis at special events.
3—Lower barriers to entry: Enterprising Bay State residents won’t have to be millionaires or go through unnecessarily complex and competitive application processes in order to become entrepreneurs in this emerging industry. The maximum application and license fees for marijuana establishments are far more accessible than those for the state medical marijuana dispensaries, while still allowing the application fee to cover the costs of running the program. Initial application fees are $3,000; for comparison, application fees for registered medical marijuana dispensaries are $31,500 in total.
4—Unprecedented support for communities disproportionately harmed by the drug war: This law requires the new regulating agency to adopt procedures and policies to promote and encourage full participation in the marijuana industry by people from communities that have previously been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement. It also requires the agency to develop policies to positively impact those communities. These could include education, job training, and placement programs. There are currently no existing medical or adult-use marijuana laws with such a requirement in any state. I’m proud that we included it and look forward to helping to develop those policies to have a major restorative impact.
5—No exclusion of people with prior marijuana offenses: In contrast to several other marijuana laws around the nation, this law specifically states that a prior conviction solely for a marijuana-related offense will not disqualify an individual from being employed in the newly legal marijuana industry or from getting a license to operate a marijuana business, unless the offense involved distribution to a minor. It was crucial for us to include this in the law in order to prevent perpetuation of the racially biased enforcement of marijuana laws. We need to stop locking disadvantaged people out of the industry.
Overall, the initiative was written by a committee which included both out-of-state experts and several in-state activists who have been working on marijuana issues for over a decade, including: Bill Downing, treasurer of Bay State Repeal and a former president of Mass Cann/NORML for 13 years; Nichole Snow, president of the Massachusetts Patients Advocacy Alliance; Mike Cutler, a 20-year member of the NORML legal committee; Dick Evans, who in 1981 authored the first comprehensive regulation/taxation plan to be introduced as legislation in Massachusetts; Kris Krane, a former NORML staffer and previous executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy; and myself, a former staffer for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and a High Times Freedom Fighter. Together, we fought very hard to include the progressive provisions mentioned above, and I urge you to consider them.
I also hope you will consider what might happen if you don’t support this law. The next chance we have to pass a legalization law realistically would be 2022 if CRMLA lost, and the next law would most likely be far more restrictive. Plus, in the meantime, people will continue to face penalties simply for using marijuana, and the black market will continue to make transactions dangerous while consumers receive products of unknown quality.
The drug warriors and prohibitionists are hoping to see rivalry and division among the marijuana reform community. Let’s not give it to them.
Shaleen Title is a co-drafter of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts initiative and a founding partner of THC Staffing Group.