A Massachusetts senate report on marijuana legalization released Tuesday urged caution and encouraged the state to pursue strict regulations on cultivation, taxation and availability.
A nine-member special senate committee’s report on the potential effects that legalized marijuana would have on Massachusetts took a cautious tone, recommending that the state counterbalance this November’s expected legalization vote with heavy taxation, marketing limits and prohibiting home growing.
The 118-page document also raised concerns about impacts for youth, the burden on government to oversee a new legal pot marketplace and challenges for law enforcement in determining whether someone has been driving a car while high.
The committee wrote in its report that it isn't taking sides on the ballot initiative.
However, the report's authors wrote, "we wish to express our serious concerns about the prospect of legalizing marijuana for recreational use."
Senators made their recommendations following a trip to Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal. Committee members spoke with government and law enforcement officials, as well as people who work in the state's legal pot industry.
A group called the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is leading the ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use in Massachusetts. It aims to make it legal for adults to grow and buy marijuana without a medical authorization, and to institute new taxes for the drug.
The Legislature could pursue those goals itself ahead of a vote on the issue in the November election, or could pass tweaks to the law should voters decide to enact CRMLA's policies.
The CRMLA, meanwhile, claimed Tuesday the committee hasn't brought new information to the discussion, and said the ballot initiative has already addressed the majority of their concerns.
"None of it is new," spokesman Jim Borghesani told Metro. "They're playing catch-up, frankly, with us."
He also said CRMLA would reject efforts to hike taxes beyond the 3.75 percent excise tax on top of other fees it has already proposed, saying too-high taxes would "guarantee the continued existence of the illicit marketplace" for the drug.
Pushback to legalization has been mounting among top state and city politicians.
Last week, Gov. Charlie Baker, Mayor Marty Walsh and state Attorney General Maura Healey co-wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe decrying legalization and urging voters not to vote for it.
"Decades of research have now debunked the myth that marijuana is harmless," they wrote.
Dick Evans, who heads the pro-pot CRMLA, fired back about the opinion piece and questioned the science it cites.
"If, like the governor, you're against legalization, that means you're against bringing the industry out of the shadows and subjecting it to regulation like nearly all other industries," Evans told the News Service.
Borghesani, the CRMLA spokesman, also pointed out that the successful American pot-legalization ballot campaigns have come with opposition from states' leaders. He said he's confident the ballot measure in November will pass.
"We're frankly not worried," Borghesani said. “Our only concern is we have to do our jobs well to convince the voters of Massachusetts that prohibition has to end.”
Additional reporting from the State House News Service.