Pubdate: Thu, 3 Feb 2011
Source: Valley Advocate (Easthampton, MA)
Copyright: 2011 New Mass Media
Author: Maureen Turner
Cited: MassCann
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Popular)


In the November election, voters in a number of Massachusetts 
districts sent a message that they're ready to see dramatic changes 
in the commonwealth's marijuana laws.

In nine legislative districts around the state (including the 1st 
Franklin and 3rd Hampshire districts), a majority of voters approved 
public policy questions calling for marijuana to be taxed and 
regulated by the government, in the same way alcohol is. In addition, 
voters in nine districts (including, locally, the 1st Hampden) 
approved public policy questions calling for medical marijuana to be 
available to patients on a doctor's recommendation.

While public policy questions are non-binding, they are an important 
way for constituents to voice their priorities to their 
representatives; indeed, the wording of PPQs specifically asks 
voters, "Shall the state representative from this district be 
instructed to vote in favor of" whatever policy is being suggested.

While legislators don't have to follow that directive, they certainly 
can't deny that voters have made their wishes clear.

And now it appears that legislators may, indeed, have the opportunity 
to turn into law the very measures voters supported on the November 
ballot. State Rep. Ellen Story, a Democrat who represents the 3rd 
Hampshire district, has filed a bill called the "Cannabis Regulation 
and Taxation Act." The proposed law would legalize possession and 
cultivation of marijuana for personal use by adults, and would create 
a state Cannabis Control Authority to regulate its legal sale and taxation.

The bill has its genesis in earlier efforts by Northampton attorney 
Dick Evans, a longtime advocate for marijuana policy reform who has 
previously brought the proposal to the Legislature under a law that 
allows citizens to file bills without a legislator's sponsorship.

In addition, state Sen. Stan Rosenberg (a Democrat from the 
Hampshire-Franklin district) and Rep. Frank Smizik, a Brookline 
Democrat, have filed in their respective chambers bills to legalize 
and regulate the medical use of marijuana with the approval of a physician.

It remains to be seen, of course, if either bill ever makes it to the 
floor for a vote. Evans' previous legalization bills have died 
without reaching a vote, as have earlier medical marijuana bills 
filed by Smizik.

But advocates hope the proposals are ideas whose time has come. "As 
the Commonwealth faces a two-billion-dollar budget deficit, the 
legislature cannot afford to continue the unjust, unwise and 
unreasonable prohibition of cannabis to adults, nor ignore the 
savings, revenue and jobs that would come from regulating and taxing 
the commercial cannabis industry, including hemp," Steven Epstein, a 
spokesman for marijuana reform group MassCann, said in a statement 
about Story's bill. "Massachusetts should lead the nation to finally 
ending 'reefer madness.' 
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