It’s easy to identify the desperation of extremists who are still fighting marijuana in Mass. One could point to their relentless smear campaigns. Or to scandalous hijinxs like that recently committed by Gov. Charlie Baker, whose “statement of fiscal consequences” regarding ballot Question 4 misleads voters to believe “tax revenues and fees that would be generated from legal sales may fall short of even covering the full public and social costs.”
For two decades, DigBoston (and the Weekly Dig, as we were called before that) has been the only decidedly anti-prohibitionist news outlet around here calling out that kind of nonsense where we see it. There have been others who played fair on occasion, and certainly reporters at various publications individually puff, but more than any other entity we’ve been the top authority on heady issues. With a publisher who once sat on the board of MassCann and as the media company behind the New England Cannabis Conventions, we’re proud to be in the tank for the dank, and more importantly for patients who use marijuana to help with any number of ailments. We’ve also seen a lot of shit go down, which brings us to this grand occasion …
From ballot questions to elections and over bureaucratic hurdles, we’ve trudged through many muddy trenches toward the endless fields of grass ahead. Blunt Truth and The Tokin’ Truth columnist Mike Crawford (the writer-activist formerly known as Mike Cann) has diligently led the beat, interviewing advocates and adversaries alike and always staying months ahead of others who attempt to cover cannabis. So with legalization looming and the election just weeks away, we broke into the archives to revisit the intense squabbles behind us as they have been documented by Crawford and other Dig contributors. Not only so readers can masturbate to nostalgia, but rather because these blurbs also serve as a preview of the next war ahead, win or lose in November, as well as of whatever senseless anti-natural drug campaign follows that, and so on.
We’re doing this for educational purposes and, admittedly, self-congratulatory props, but our largest motivation may be the most infantile and petty reason of all. In 10, or even 20 or 30 years, when the long-term effects of legal and accessible cannabis are realized, however utterly benign or markedly positive, because those are the only two possible outcomes, we want to make sure that reformers get the credit we deserve. Not because we’re soothsayers, but because we weren’t too stubborn to embrace obvious truths. At the same time, when cannabis is in the clear once and for all, let us not forget the hypocrites and dirtbags who imprisoned countless marijuana users and in many cases profited from causing so much misery. Prohibitionists can crack all of the stoner jokes they want, but some of us don’t forget that easily.
TAKE TWO ASPIRIN AND CALL ME NEXT YEAR (By Andy Gaus, July 2013)
Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville is the latest town official who wants a moratorium on any dispensaries. Rep. Cleon Turner of Dennis has gone even further, introducing a bill in the Massachusetts legislature that would allow towns to veto dispensaries within their borders. Attorney General Martha Coakley, to her credit, has ruled that as things stand, towns may not totally veto dispensaries—because if all towns were allowed to do that, the will of the voters in passing Question 3 would be nullified. But what about these moratoriums? … If every town is allowed to enact a yearlong moratorium, doesn’t that nullify the will of the voters?
WHAT’S UP WITH THE CAMBRIDGE DISPENSARY? (By Mike Crawford, April 2014)
After winning state approval for a proposed operation on First Street in East Cambridge, the Greeneway Wellness Foundation was opposed by a cranky condo association, and also ran afoul of the Cambridge City Council, which approved a marijuana zoning district that left them 60 feet out of bounds. The city may bend over backwards for Big Pharma and the like, but for pot dispensaries, it’s been a battle every inch of the way.
THE YEAR IN MASS CANNABIS (By Mike Crawford, December 2015)
If 2014 was the year that outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick screwed cannabis patients, then 2015 was the year when his replacement, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, recognized that the state’s bungled medical marijuana program was hurting vulnerable people. Baker offered more than lip service, and took action by cutting red tape that kept dispensaries in limbo. Facilities have since opened in the cities of Salem, Northampton, and Brockton, with several others expected to follow in the first half of 2016.
DPH REGS MEAN PATIENTS LOSE ACCESS (By Mike Crawford, June 2013)
For the last several months MASS GRASS, the newsletter of MassCann/NORML, published a list of caregivers able to provide patients with medical marijuana … Last week, that service ended [under] the Department of Public Health’s newly enacted medical marijuana regulations … MassCann’s Bill Downing reports, “DPH regulations violate the intentions of the law. Until dispensaries become operational, patients were intended to be cared for by caregivers. This is now impossible for all but a few patients.”
BAD FOR PATIENTS, GREAT FOR PROFITEERS (By Mike Crawford, May 2013)
The new DPH medical marijuana regulations are out, and patients hoping for affordable access to their medicine just got sold out … After months of hearings and a final comment session from caregivers, patients, advocates, and pot profiteers, the DPH has decided to implement regulations that will all but ensure that almost every caregiver in Mass will be non-compliant.
WHERE’S THE MEDICINE? (By Mike Crawford, November 2013)
Jeff is a 34-year-old Mass medical marijuana patient with a legal doctor’s note. He has what’s called a congenital fusion in his lower-left vertebrae, with a fracture through it to boot … Yet Jeff has now gone several months without access to the non-addictive, non-toxic medicine that he has every right to buy and ingest … It’s been nearly an entire year since the passage of a statewide medical marijuana law.
THE YEAR IN WEED (By Mike Crawford, December 2013)
On the second day of January, Mass officially became a medical marijuana state. Where has that gotten us? For a short time, it allowed many patients to obtain recommendations and receive quality medicine from caregivers … until the DPH issued detailed regulations. The updated regs shrank the caregiver pool, leaving most patients without their medicine. Protests ensued, but the state hasn’t budged. Still, they’ve promised to get patients their medicine via dispensary licenses that are finally to be awarded at the end of January, about 15 months after the law was passed in November 2012.
CAREGIVER HEROES VS. THE MASS DPH (By Mike Crawford, March 2014)
According to DPH medical marijuana regulations enacted in late-spring of 2013, independent caregivers are prohibited from offering services to “more than one patient at a time.” Meanwhile, these patients are filing paperwork with DPH authorities, navigating the bureaucracy the best they can, and, in many cases, paying $200 in cash for doctor recommendations and an additional $50 to file with the Commonwealth … And still no medicine.
LAW ENFORCEMENT CRACKS DOWN ON MEDICAL CANNABIS OILS (By Mike Crawford, January 2016)
Bill Downing, a longtime Boston-area activist with MassCann/NORML, is facing several misdemeanor complaints filed by Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley in Brighton Municipal Court related to Downing’s testing the boundaries of Mass medical marijuana laws. Alleging that Downing acted outside of his legal rights as a licensed caregiver, Conley also filed a complaint for forfeiture of Downing’s products and for $126,708 that was seized in a raid … Downing is a married 57-year-old father of two, and has never been charged with a crime in the past. He says that he was helping seriously ill patients.
THE PROHIBITIONISTS (GOVERNMENT)
MARTHA COAKLEY’S REEFER MADNESS (By Kelly Brolin, May 2012)
Last Saturday, a group of Mass citizens concerned about cannabis occupied Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office in protest of her recent comments showing some reservations regarding this November’s vote to legalize medicinal marijuana. We spoke with one of the rally’s organizers, Mike Cann [2016 ed. note: Mike had not yet been tapped by the Dig at this point] about what’s at stake for prescription smoke. “She shouldn’t be speaking out against something that is so popular with her constituents,” Cann said.
DPH DOCTORS MIGHT AS WELL BE SCIENTOLOGISTS (By Mike Crawford, May 2013)
Wondering why your doctor at Mass General or Brigham and Women’s won’t write you a medical marijuana recommendation? Look no further than Dr. Steve Adelman, Director of Physician Health Services (PHS) who recently opined that the Boston Marathon bombing might have been partially caused by marijuana withdrawal.
MASS POLITICIANS AND THEIR LAME POT JOKES (By Mike Crawford, January 2014)
Last week, Fox 25 News reporter Sharmen Sacchetti asked Gov. Deval Patrick if he had anything to say to Mass residents who advocate for the full legalization of weed … Instead of facing political reality, the governor responded with a cheap attempt at pot humor: “What have you been smoking, my dear?” … Meanwhile, Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe recently told the Boston Globe that legalizing marijuana would send “a signal to children that marijuana is okay.”
MASS GUBERNATORIAL POT POLITICS (By Mike Crawford, June 2014)
Among the three Dems who will appear on the primary ballot in September, former President Barack Obama healthcare official Don Berwick is the only candidate who seems to care about medical marijuana patients. On the Republican side, expected nominee Charlie Baker has gone on the record as opposing legalization.
100 MARIJUANA OVERDOSES (By Mike Crawford, October 2014)
Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett told a roomful of people that “the increased potency of cannabis … which is often laced with high percentages of THC, ecstasy or crystal meth” has been in part responsible for 100 heroin overdoses in his jurisdiction this year alone … Seems the DA is short on details, which is sort of like what happened when former Middlesex County District Attorney Gerry Leone posited that one could spin 1,000 joints out of an ounce.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN LIE (By Mike Crawford, August 2016)
Here in Mass, the Safe & Healthy campaign [against ballot Question 4] has been fraudulent since day one, when the group posted on Twitter, “Since CO legalized marijuana, it became #1 state in teen marijuana use, rising 20% in 2 yrs. #wrongforkids.” That’s an interesting interpretation of statistics, since even the study that the campaign cites, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, notes that the uptick in Colorado numbers is not statistically significant.
HIGH ON REFORM (By Mike Crawford, July 2013)
Patients are protesting the DPH over medical marijuana regulations. On Thursday, medical marijuana patients, including The King of Pot and myself, will be picketing at the headquarters for DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett.
PATIENTS PROTEST DPH COMMISSIONER (By Mike Crawford, August 2013)
Sending patients to other states to receive caregiver service and access is respecting their needs? So is telling them to wait years potentially for their medicine? Access is gone, except for those who can afford to pay. Here are some possible next steps for Mass medical marijuana advocates:
- File lawsuits to challenge DPH actions.
- Follow up on the medical marijuana law to improve it.
- Organize more DPH patient protests.
‘THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH HAS BLOOD ON ITS HANDS’ (By Chris Faraone, October 2014)
It’s becoming a familiar refrain around here: “TWO YEARS, TOO LATE.” That’s to say that nearly 24 months after more than half of Commonwealth voters pulled for medical grass, there are still no dispensaries. Adding insult to injury, the state also dismantled a caregiving system that offered temporary relief.
THE KING REMAINS IN THE BUILDING (By Mike Crawford, February 2014)
On Sunday, February 9, dearly departed cannabis activist Michael L. Malta’s daughter, Kristin Imhof, delivered a newborn baby boy, Patrick Michael Imhof, to the world. Malta, popularly known by the King of Pot moniker he trademarked, passed suddenly this past October … Before his death, he had become a beloved hero and a friend unlike any other, locally or nationally … We continue to focus on him because of what he meant to all of us as individuals, and as a community of activists.
HERE’S WHY EVERYONE WAS GETTING STONED ON BOSTON COMMON TODAY (By Dig Staff, January 2014)
If you were on the Common this afternoon, you might have seen a smoky gaggle of stoned revelers up on the summit known as Mount Michael Malta. The powwow, organized by DigBoston Blunt Truth columnist Mike Cann, was dubbed a “Smoke Out/Vape Up,” and came as a response to a recently enacted ban on lighting anything in public parks.
THE PROHIBITIONISTS (MEDIA)
THE GENIE LEFT THE BAG LONG AGO (By Mike Crawford, October 2013)
A recent op-ed in the Boston Herald was 100 percent reefer madness propaganda. Ridiculously titled “Don’t let the genie out of the bag,” written by one Dr. Robert J. Petrella, the screed edged on a cheap and flat one-dimensional perspective that was seemingly cherry-picked from asinine National Institute of Drug Abuse hit pieces. This sort of magic genie reference, not uncommon among prohibitionists, mistakenly assumes that the war on users is keeping marijuana use in check … Guess what doc—The. Genie. Is. Already. Out. Of. The. Bag.
THANKS TO PROHIBITION, KIDS HAVE THE BEST WEED (By Mike Crawford, November 2013)
Under prohibition, financially strapped high school and college students have been economically enticed to sell grass and edibles to friends. [Then-Fox 25 anchor Maria] Stephanos should note that they are not slinging cigarettes, or alcohol, as a profitable venture. In every public high school in the Commonwealth, there are likely several kids selling weed. Why? Because prohibition spawns a black market that is profitable and easily accessible to teens and young adults.
HAT OFF TO HOWIE (By Mike Crawford, February 2014)
This isn’t a traditional spat between liberals and conservatives. In their push against weed, the fraudulently outraged ranks of [Boston Herald hack Howie] Carr have been joined by the likes of Patrick Kennedy, the lamest member of his clan and an outspoken opponent of decriminalized, medical, and legalized pot all the same. Does Carr care that Kennedy and others are just sucking up for funding? How does he feel about taxpayer-funded drug testing programs?
FACEBOOK REJECTS ADS FOR WEED COVERAGE, BUT OKS HATE SPEECH (By Mike Crawford, November 2015)
I have recently learned that it is standard operating procedure for Facebook not to approve ads with marijuana leaf graphics or with “objectionable” words such as “cannabis.” With the most recent example, they were blocking Facebook promotion for this column … Not because we’re selling legal medical marijuana (we’re not). Rather, they’re rejecting the mere words used in our stories, and denying us the ability to further disseminate political commentary.
THE SUN STRIKES AGAIN (By Mike Crawford, January 2016)
Brace yourself for last week’s “Who’s prescribing marijuana?” by Todd Feathers in the Lowell Sun. It’s a pathetic slanted story posing as a fair and balanced piece, a medical marijuana article with no patients, reefer madness front and center … Leading the charge this time is Dr. Dennis Dimitri, president of the Mass Medical Society (MMS), who questions whether doctors in the Bay State recommending cannabis have bonafide relationships with patients.
THE ROAD TO LEGAL MUST BE PAVED WITH DOLLARS (By Mike Crawford, December 2013)
In 2008, a national organization called the Marijuana Policy Project spent in excess of $1 million to smoke out victory for a marijuana decriminalization initiative in Mass … Last year, philanthropist Peter Lewis of Colorado funded an initiative across the Commonwealth to test the waters for future weed initiatives. Building on that, last week, Bay State Repeal, the latest ballot initiative committee to take on the topic, announced that it is forming with the goal of repealing marijuana prohibition by 2016 … With little financial support, the committee hopes to put the issue back to voters. Still, it will once again take outside help to make the next step—full legalization—a reality.
REPEAL VS. LEGALIZATION (By Mike Crawford, April 2014)
In one camp, the Marijuana Policy Project—a national reform organization based in Washington, D.C. that led and funded the 2008 Mass ballot initiative for decriminalization—is following its historic Colorado tax and regulation win with eyes on Mass, where organizers are already making plans for a big push over the next two years. In a much different approach, the local organization Bay State Repeal is attempting to make the case that they can do better. To test alternative waters, they’re staging a campaign to poll voters on legalization language through non-binding questions that will appear on a handful of ballots around the state when Mass picks a new governor in November. Basically, voters will be asked if marijuana should be “regulate[d] and tax[ed] like alcohol” [2016 ed. note: This is the version that eventually prevailed], or “regulate[d] like herbs” so long as vendors are prevented from selling or providing pot to children.
HOME-GROW OR NO-GO (By Mike Crawford, August 2014)
In the opinion of many Bay State activists, a “legalization” initiative that prohibits all or most home-growing has nothing to do with public safety or ensuring that the measure passes: The only benefit is to the emerging Big Weed industry, forcing the rest of us to buy its product at its prices or risk prosecution. Even that benefit may be small: Just as only a small percentage of us brew our own beer, only a small percentage of stoners will grow their own dope, and those who do will spend money on hydroponics systems and fertilizer. Home-growing may not be a big consumer issue, but it is a giant civil rights issue. If it isn’t legal, the police can still say, “We know there’s marijuana in there, we’re busting down the door,” and so the war on marijuana is simply advanced on new terms. For those of us who espouse “home-grow or no go” for Mass, any acceptable ballot initiative has to be about the right of people to be secure in their homes. [2016 ed. note: Question 4 allows for individuals to harvest up to six plants on their own].
A PLEA TO UNITE LEGALIZATION FACTIONS (By Shaleen Title, December 2015)
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 Mass. We need to come together to pass legalization and stop wasting resources and ruining lives through marijuana prohibition. Mass 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.