Marijuana activists push weed reform bill
Suffolk University senior Sean McSoley believes an unregulated weed market contributes to violence and by legalizing and taxing pot, it would take cash out of criminals’ hands while promoting safer city streets.
“The prohibition of marijuana is the reason for the crime surrounding marijuana,” said McSoley before the Judiciary Committee on Beacon Hill yesterday.
McSoley spoke in support of a bill that would create a Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act aimed at eliminating drug-related crime and raising new revenue for Massachusetts.
During his testimony, McSoley recounted his run-in with two men who repeatedly stabbed him and “left him for dead” when he refused to give them his bag of weed while on the Boston Common two years ago.
“This would have never happened if it were a pack of cigarettes or a six pack of beer,” he said. “By legalizing this plant, these incentives to rob and kill would no longer exist.”
McSoley’s speech was met by applause from a handful of Emerson College and Suffolk University student supporters.
“I think [legalization] is moving in the right direction,” said Armando Vazquez, 19, a member of Emerson’s “Students for Sensible Drug Policy” group.
“Even though it’s quite slow, the discussion is not going to rest anytime soon,” he said.
Legislators overseeing the House bill voiced concern about more motorists driving while high and “opening a huge flood gate” to legalizing other drugs.
“If it’s OK with marijuana, should we legalize cocaine and LSD?,” said Rep. Sheila Harrington. “I’m not sure that the justification is people are breaking the law all the time and we should just open it up.”
McSoley, president of Suffolk’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, agreed certain regulations would have to be set in place if the bill were to move forward.
Not the first push for pot
Last June, members of the Joint Committee on Public Health heard testimony in favor of a bill that would allow nonprofit dispensaries to grow plants and prescribe medicinal pot to registered patients with varying disabilities and diseases under the watch of the state Department of Public Health.
That same month, Rep. Barney Frank, D-MA, and Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul, teamed up to co-sponsor a bipartisan bill to let states nationwide legalize, regulate and tax weed the way they do with alcohol.
It was the first such bill introduced in Congress.
Proposed pot act
People would have to be 21 to partake in puffing
Bill would promote new jobs in commercial hemp and cannabis
It wouldn’t conflict with existing laws related to driving while high
An authority of seven directors would oversee regulations of distribution, cultivation
Board would issue cultivation, retail trade and other licenses as necessary
An excise tax would be collected by the state
The bill’s author suggests the Legislature will not act, but voters might in the future
Come November, voters will decide on medicinal use
Follow Steve Annear on Twitter @steveannear