By Jon Keller

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.

[graphiq id=”iH23o4NDcBD” title=”Prevalence of Marijuana Use by State” width=”600″ height=”641″ url=”” link=”” link_text=”HealthGrove | Graphiq” frozen=”true”]

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

Comments (6)
  1. Fred Silva says:

    The people of MA approved marijuana last November. Lawmakers who continue to attempt to restrict it should be voted out of office. I don’t use marijuana but understand the benefits of legalizing it. Politicians need to be made to understand that too or be gone.

  2. ” “started at a very young age with marijuana. He quickly progressed to Percosets,” ”
    and the goal here is to get the marijuana market away from other harder drugs that can cause addiction and overdoses. The only link between pot and other drugs are the laws.

  3. the voters have spoken, are our elected officials really that incompetent? Sit back and collect your taxes, never mind woulda, coulda, and shoulda. There are plenty of other states to follow if you can’t take the lead. Seems to me everyone’s basically disregarding any current law anyway.

  4. Legal Cannabis use for responsible adults is now part of the culture in Massachusetts as voted by the citizens. This should not change. But some changes are needed. Responsible use means assurances that those using cannabis are protected and those not using cannabis are also protected. Driving and the use of cannabis/marijuana has proven to be deadly with the passing of legislation making it legal for adult users in Washington and Colorado. The convictions for DUI may have gone done, but the fatality rate where a driver tested positive to cannabis/marijuana only and no other drugs or alcohol…doubled in the years after legal use was allowed. Oregon on the other hand, had only a moderate uptick in the fatality rates. The legislators need to look to what worked in all states that have legal cannabis/marijuana so as to not replicate what was a failure.
    Training of law enforcement–proper training, is key in preventing loss of lives. Until there are technologies available to accurately determine functional impairment, the well trained officer providing a comprehensive battery of tests is our best defense. Keeping those drivers who are not responsibly using cannabis/marijuana (and allowing those who responsibly use marijuana and are safe and functional….able to drive…) off the roads is critical to the public safety. Biologic tests of urine, blood, saliva and breath are crucial tools, but do not tell the entire story of ability to drive when it comes to cannabis/marijuana. IMMAD-Impairment Measurement Marijuana and Driving is a simple cell phone app that tests retinal dysfunction. It is intended for law enforcement use. The initial research shows it to be very sensitive. IMMAD as a sensitive functional test, as well as other functional tests are needed to determine ability to drive with cannabis/marijuana. Such tests will be important to help law enforcement keep our roads safe. IMMAD is objective, sensitive and simple.

  5. Why are such inaccuracies continued to be allowed? “Can grow enough for 12,000 joints?” 26lbs? (1 gram each which is generous). The average casual home cultivator does not have the budget nor space to produce such, but more along the lines of a closet, which is enough to produce rarely a volume which meets their personal consumption needs for the next 90 days. (The amount of time needs to cultivate, dry and cure the subsequent crop.) Many in the industry actually oppose home cultivation as they believe it will significantly impact sales, which isn’t necessarily accurate as only a fraction choose, and/or are successful at home cultivation.

    Then one has comments such as “people will die”, when this was possibly even known by physicians in the late 1800’s and the DEA themselves will state no recorded deaths, with an LD50 of 1,500lbs in 15 minutes, or 300lbs of extracts in the same time frame, both of which are physically impossible. What is true, and for some reason ignored, is all the “associated” drugs are, indeed, a plague on society leaving a path of destruction in society only rivaled by, statistically, actual war casualties. (Cocaine, Heroin, Methamphetamines. Throw in alcohol, and those stats would certainly be similar.).

    And, as always, the belief that actually regulating cannabis for adults will lead to increased access and use by our youth, when in fact our youth have been readily able to obtain drugs from their social circles immeasurably easier than alcohol simply due to regulation.

    In the end, again, as always, it simply is reduced to allowing adults to choose a non toxic substance as opposed to any others of the above, including alcohol.

    You don’t have to agree, you don’t have to like it.

    You simply have to realize dictating what an adult does in the privacy of their own home is of no concern to you.

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