By Julie McCay Turner
Question 4, the initiative petition to legalize the recreational use of marijuana on the November 8 ballot, sets Thursday, December 18 as the beginning of an ambiguous era in Massachusetts law. It’s now legal for adults over the age of 21 to buy, but not to sell, marijuana in Massachusetts.
The results of Question 4 were certified by the Governor’s Council,Massachusetts on Wednesday, December 14, paving the way for the state and municipalities to craft an appropriate regulatory framework that will go into effect in January, 2018 when sales of the drug will be legal.
Bedford officials and at least one resident have checked in:
Police Chief Robert Bongiorno: “The passage of Question Four and the legalization of marijuana create significant challenges for municipal law enforcement in Massachusetts. We are standing by to receive word from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office, and the District Attorneys to provide police with uniform and comprehensive guidance with respect to marijuana. We are in unknown territory. Public safety and security are our primary concerns, and we will continue to enforce the current drug laws to keep our community safe.”
Superintendent of Schools Jon Sills: “Our only concern is that we saw a spike in school age use after decriminalization, and we hope that the same does not occur with legalization. Our sense was that some students felt that the change gave them permission in a way that I’m sure was not intended. “
Selectman Mike Rosenberg: “Following town meeting’s approval of a one-year moratorium on consideration of medical marijuana dispensaries, soon the selectmen and town manager will be discussing a task force that will consider zoning and other aspects of the issue. I expect that issues inherent in the referendum on recreational use will have to be part of the conversation.”
Bedford Youth and Family Services’ Executive Director Sue Baldauf: “I have a lot of concerns primarily due to the fact that marijuana is illegal on the federal level & will require us as a state to develop structures that we would not need otherwise. Like with medical marijuana, if it were federally legal, it could just be available with a script at pharmacies and would be monitored by the FDA. With recreational [use], the issues are similar to how alcohol is regulated and how Massachusetts will be challenged to control, monitor, and address [it]. Sen. Jason Lewis’ attached report [for the Massachusetts Special Senate Committee on Marijuana] spells it out well, I think.” (Click this link to read the Committee’s report)
Resident Kris Washington wrote two Letters to the Editor of The Citizen about marijuana earlier this year: “Positioning marijuana as medicine was one of the most effective strategies employed by recreational marijuana legalization proponents. A side effect of this approach has been a steady reduction in the belief that marijuana poses any danger to physical and mental health – especially among young people. Yet evidence shows that young people are most at risk from brain development, psychosis, and mental health disorders associated with use of today’s potent THC products. I urge Bedford (which voted down the law) to join Falmouth and other towns in sending a message of caution by using a town vote to disallow marijuana retail in town, as is allowed under the new law.”
Massachusetts’ Special Senate Committee on Marijuana
Chaired by State Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), the Special Senate Committee began its work in February, 2015 “charged with conducting a thorough and objective review of marijuana policy in Massachusetts as well as lessons to be learned from other states.” The Committee released its report on March 8, 2016. The report cites the Committee’s policy goals for implementing a “regulatory framework for legalized marijuana”:
- Prevent marijuana use by youth under 21 years old
- Minimize adult misuse and addiction
- Minimize black market and criminal activity
- Ensure a well-regulated marketplace that minimizes commercialization and avoids disparate impacts on vulnerable communities
- Generate sufficient tax revenue to meet necessary public costs
Editor’s Note: This is a developing story that The Bedford Citizen will follow; we invite our readers to comment on this post, or to share a Letter to the Editor via email, [email protected].