BOSTON (CBS) – “Marjiuana commerce now makes politicians nervous,” said a speaker at Monday’s Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy hearing. “I know it makes you nervous.”
And why wouldn’t it? State officials say this new industry could yield up to $1.3 billion in revenue once legal pot gets up and running. That’s a big jackpot, but before they can cash in on it, they have to sort out a big regulatory mess.
Difficult issues related to the full roll-out of legal pot, now slated for early summer next year, keep piling up. For instance, the Massachusetts Municipal Association claims the new law permits too much home growing, up to 12,000 joints worth per household, raising concerns about minors getting access and black market sales cutting into the state’s haul.
But pro-pot advocates say hands off. “If people can’t grow for themselves then they’re forced to pay the prices, and that’s not fair,” said Andy Gaus of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition outside the hearing room. “You should be able to make your own dresses, you shouldn’t have to buy it from a dress shop.”
And while the marijuana referendum won 54 percent of the vote statewide, what about cities and towns that don’t want pot stores? The law says you need a community-wide vote to opt out, but there was pressure today to let just a city council or board of selectman majority vote veto the outlets, as 70% of communities in Colorado, the first state in the nation to fully legalize pot, have done.
For the advocates, the intrusion of pols and bureaucrats is worrisome. “The citizens did pass a legalization of marijuana, and we’re just concerned that they don’t regulate it to death,” said Kathryn Rifkin, a legal-pot advocate.
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But Zelia Suarez was there to talk about a different kind of death. Ray Ray Suarez “started at a very young age with marijuana. He quickly progressed to Percosets,” she said, clutching a picture of her late son. “I think we’re going to see many many more deaths, and we are losing a generation.”
Sad stories like that didn’t carry the day last fall when legal pot was approved, but now it’s in the legislators’ court. And the last thing any of them want is to take the blame later for bungling the roll-out of a new billion-dollar industry.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports