Committee Will Hear Testimony on Marijuana Legalization Bill

"The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act" is up for debate.


Marijuana image via shutterstock

Four days after marijuana proponents gather on what’s known as “Mount Mary Jane” to protest the city’s recent ban on smoking in public parks, and call attention to the benefits of marijuana legalization, during the coveted 4/20 celebration, a State House committee will hear arguments from elected officials who would like to see the pot industry bud in Massachusetts.

Claiming, “100 years of years of criminalization in the Commonwealth has failed to stop the production, distribution, and use of marijuana,” State Representative Ellen Story’s bill to regulate and tax pot will advance to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary for discussion.

Story’s proposed legislation, called “The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act,” first referred to the committee last year, aims to eliminate prohibition-related crime and to raise new revenue from the drug. The bill argues that legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts would promote job growth by introducing industries in commercial cannabis and hemp. The legislation follows in the footsteps of the recent legalization of marijuana in both Washington and Colorado.

Since legal pot was officially introduced in January, Colorado made roughly $2 million in marijuana taxes in that month alone; something Story seems to think could be mirrored here in Massachusetts through proposed excise taxes tied to the amount of THC per ounce of the drug sold.

Story’s proposal and pending committee hearing comes at a time when the marijuana legalization question has already been presented by outside groups. In recent months, pro-marijuana advocates have been organizing efforts to get a question on the 2016 ballot that would end pot prohibition if passed.

Known as “Bay State Repeal,” the group in November filed the necessary paperwork with the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance to advance their efforts to get a question before voters during the next presidential election. To test the waters, members of the committee will try to get a non-binding referendum on the 2014 ballot, gauging voters’ feelings about legalizing the drug. “Our effort is unique, in that it brings legalization to the East Coast—Massachusetts being one of the rare eastern states with the initiative procedure,” the group wrote in a recent letter they mailed out to supporters of their cause. “The other thing that makes this campaign very unusual, is that we are striving for a simple and minimally restrictive law, which will be able to avert the kind of political cronyism now tainting so much of the drug policy reform movement.”

Given the recent pushback and some problems that have grown from the planned openings of medical marijuana dispensaries statewide—specifically, in Boston—it’s hard to say how far Story’s bill will get once it lands in the committee’s hands. But the members of Bay State Repeal are committed to their cause, whether Story’s bill moves forward or not. “Though we are facing an uphill battle, we are determined to produce a pure, fresh, and non-corrupt model for the nation,” the group said in their letter to voters this month.