Pubdate: Wed, 29 Sep 2010
Source: Newton Tab (MA)
Copyright: 2010 GateHouse Media, Inc.
Author: Steve Annear, Staff Writer
Note: Gail Spector contributed to this report.


Newton - State Sen. Cynthia Creem said she supports "the concept" of 
legalizing marijuana, provided more questions about revenue and regulation 
could be answered.

Voters in Creem's district can cast votes in a nonbinding ballot question 
on Election Day asking if Creem should vote in favor of "legislation that 
would allow the state to regulate the taxation, cultivation and sale of 
marijuana to adults."

"My position would be to see where my constituents were [with the issue]," 
said Creem. "I would hope that people would appreciate that there are more 
questions that go with it."

Creem is running unopposed for her seventh term as senator representing the 
first Middlesex and Norfolk District, which comprises Newton, Brookline and 
parts of Wellesley.

The group Massachusetts Reform Cannabis Coalition (MassCann) gathered the 
requisite 1,200 signatures needed to place the question on the ballot in 
Creem's senatorial district. The first Middlesex and Norfolk District is 
the only senatorial district in the commonwealth with any nonbinding 
questions on its ballot, according to Brian McNiff, spokesman for Secretary 
of State William Galvin. The same question or variations will be on the 
ballot in several House districts, with about 7.5 percent of the voters in 
the state weighing in on the issue.

MassCann Treasurer Steven Epstein, who is also one of the group's founders, 
said in a press release that the group was looking to send a message to Creem.

"In 2008, Question 2, decriminalizing an ounce or less, received more votes 
than Ms. Creem, Senate Chair of the Judiciary Committee, who ran and is now 
running unopposed. It is our hope that on Nov. 2, 2010, her constituents 
send her a message she cannot politically afford to ignore and that in her 
role as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, she will advance 
legislation that regulates and taxes cannabis commerce and cultivation," 
said Epstein.

Epstein later said in an interview that Creem has yet to show her support 
for marijuana reform.

"She has done nothing to advance any changes in the criminal law, and I 
think she lets the House Chair rule the roost," said Epstein. "She is a 
woman with little understanding of what she speaks except that she sounds 
like she is in favor of it because that is the wiser position for her to take."

Epstein said 64 percent "that bothered to vote on question 2," in 2008, 
supported the decriminalization of marijuana.

"It is the envy of any politician to get that kind of attention," he said.

Epstein said Creem's committee didn't hold a hearing during the last 
legislative session on a house bill to legalize use of the plant.

But according to Creem, she is more concerned about swaying the other 39 
state senators to agree with her position on the ballot question.

"I think it is unfortunate I am one of 40. My constituents I would listen 
to, but it doesn't mean the other 39 senators would listen to me," she said.

Creem said she believes the measure would bring in more revenue than gambling.

The state senator also said she voted in favor of decriminalizing marijuana 
in 2008.

"I would vote [in favor of] use for medicinal purposes," said Creem.

The bill is modeled after Chapter 138 of the Massachusetts General Laws, 
the Alcohol Beverage Control Act.

As alcohol control laws allow consumers to brew their own beer or make 
their own wine and share it with their friends, the bill would allow those 
over 21 to cultivate cannabis for their personal use and to give cannabis 
to others over 21 years of age.

It would also create the Cannabis Control Authority, analogous to the 
Alcoholic Beverage Commission, to oversee the issuance of cultivation 
licenses, processing licenses, trade licenses, retail licenses, import 
licenses, research licenses and farmer-processor-retailer licenses. It does 
not change the law on impaired driving.

The bill establishes license fees of varying amounts and excises taxes on 
cannabis sold at retail.

For Epstein, more important than the general consumption of marijuana is 
the use and trade of hemp products in Massachusetts.

"It's the hardest thing for people to fathom, but the big money isn't from 
the sales of its flowing tops as an herb for ingestion by human beings, but 
is in it its fibers for all the many uses from the hemp fibers," said Epstein.

According to Epstein, until the 20th century, worldwide production of hemp 
was the most invaluable of all agricultural commodities.

"Its an incredibly valuable plant we have snubbed for almost 100 years," he 

California voters will go to the polls with the opportunity to pass a law 
legalizing cannabis in the Golden State.

Gail Spector contributed to this report.
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