Bill filed to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol in Massachusetts
With nationwide polls showing a majority of voters are ready for a new approach to marijuana — and with Washington and Colorado leading the way by regulating the product like alcohol — it’s no surprise that legislatures across the nation are considering the issue. In Massachusetts, Rep. Ellen Story has introduced HB 1632, a bill that would allow adults who are 21 and older to possess and cultivate marijuana. Once federal law changes, it would regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol. Ask your legislators to support this sensible proposal.
Medical marijuana law implementation moves forward; 181 apply to run medical marijuana dispensaries
On Nov. 6, 2012, 63% of Bay State voters approved Question 3, making their state the 18th to enact a compassionate medical marijuana program. While they wait for registry identification cards to be available, qualifying patients may cultivate and possess a 60-day supply of marijuana if they have a physician’s written certification. Once the law is fully implemented, there should be up to 35 non-profit dispensaries statewide. Patients will be able to cultivate a limited supply of marijuana if they are granted a hardship registration due to financial or other hardship.
The Department of Public Health worked hard to gather input into the state’s medical marijuana regulations, holding three “listening sessions” to gather input before it began drafting them. The department also carefully considered input on its draft rules, and made several improvements before finalizing them on May 8. The final rules are available here, and you can find more information at the Department's medical marijuana page here.
Next, the Department must certify at least 14, but not more than 35, medical marijuana treatment centers by January 1, 2014. The Department reported having received 181 applications by its August 22 deadline.
Marijuana laws in Massachusetts
Although possession of under an ounce of marijuana is punishable by a civil fine of $100 in Massachusetts, pursuant to an initiative campaign led by MPP in 2008, the prohibition of marijuana has plenty of opportunity costs. Time spent enforcing marijuana laws could better be used to investigate and bring to justice perpetrators of violent crime. The clearance rate for murder in Massachusetts is 53.9%; for rape and burglary, the clearance rates are 27.8% and 23.8%, respectively.
Additionally, new evidence suggests that Massachusetts’ marijuana laws are not being evenly enforced. A 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that although blacks and whites use marijuana at nearly identical rates, blacks in Massachusetts are 3.9 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Please email your legislators and ask them to consider a more sensible alternative.
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Massachusetts, be sure to subscribe to MPP's free legislative alert service.