Written by University of Massachusetts Boston SSDP chapter leader Joseph Gilmore
The decision by Massachusetts legislators to delay the opening of recreational marijuana dispensaries was both fiscally irresponsible and politically underhanded. The consequences of S. 2524, which pushed the start date for recreational cannabis sales back by 6 months, will negatively impact our communities both socially and economically along with directly impacting minority youth by prolonging the already prevalent racial incarceration disparities for marijuana arrests. A 2014 ACLU study found that despite decriminalization, the arrest rate for marijuana sales in Massachusetts was 7.1 times higher for black people than it was for white people.
The delay also puts public safety at risk by forcing recreational consumers (who don’t possess the resources or ability to grow) to purchase illegally from unregulated providers selling untested products. This could lead to improper dosage, mold contamination, or “laced” marijuana. Without regulation, underage consumers are more likely to obtain marijuana because shady drug dealers don’t ask for identification. Millions of would-be tax revenue would be lost to the black market which will go to fund other illegal activities. The only way to rid the black market is to implement regulated and affordable retail sales. As an economics student, I’ve learned that as competition rises, so will quality, leading to a reduction in price. Small time dealers won’t be able to keep up with sophisticated business practices and state of the art technology, driving out bootleggers as we’ve seen towards the end of alcohol prohibition.
More than 1.8 million Massachusetts residents voted for Question 4 with the expectation of retail marijuana sales by January 1, 2018. This legislation was approved by only a handful of elected officials during an informal session that did not have a quorum and that was not broadcast to the public. For this, we ask Governor Charlie Baker to respect the will of the majority of Massachusetts voters and open recreational dispensaries by the agreed upon date.
Governor Charlie Baker signed S.2524 into law on December 30th. If you believe that he should have vetoed the legislation, please call his Boston office at 617-725-4005. If you are unsure of what to say, use the following phone script:
Hello, I’m calling today to express my strong opposition to S.2524, a bill that seeks to delay the implementation of several aspects of Question 4. The voters of Massachusetts spoke loud and clear on November 8th when they approved regulating marijuana for adult use. I feel strongly that the original time-frame should be kept in place as much as possible, and that any future changes should go through the proper channels in the state legislature, including a floor debate. S. 2524 was approved by a handful of elected officials during an informal session that did not have a quorum and that was not broadcast to the public. Approving this bill suggests that the Governor’s office does not value transparency or the will of Massachusetts voters. I strongly oppose Governor Baker’s decision to sign this bill into law. Thank you.