Barney Frank Explains Why More Pols Aren’t Backing Legalized Weed

'They are afraid to be for it.'

Three years of retirement have done little to mollify Barney Frank.

The former Massachusetts congressman squared off with state Sen. Jason Lewis on WCVB’s On the Record this weekend in a debate over Question 4, the November ballot measure that would legalize and tax recreational marijuana in the Bay State.

“Adults ought to have the freedom to make their own choices about how they want to live their lives, unless they are hurting someone else,” Frank opened. “I believe that the government is there to protect you from other people. It is there to preserve a set of rules by which people can conduct business, but the argument is individual freedom.”

When asked if Gov. Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo were wrong for placing edibles at the center of their opposition to legalization, Frank offered a different theory.

“They’re primarily opposing it because they are afraid to be for it, and they come up with reasons to not to be for it,” Frank said. “I notice [Sen. Lewis] begins by saying ‘I’m open to it.’ Well, it seems to me, frankly Senator, a little late in your political career to be ‘open’ on a very important issue. You could be for it, and you could tell what regulations you think are necessary, or you could be against it. But the waffle, I think, is inappropriate for public officials.”

“If you are determined to not be for it because it probably, politically, makes you a little nervous, but you haven’t got a good reason to be against it in principle, being ‘open’ to it, then you will look at any specific proposal and oppose it,” Frank said.

Lewis raised the issue of driving while stoned, and noted that a state trooper was killed earlier this year by a driver suspected of using marijuana prior to the crash. The Winchester Democrat said that if Question 4 proponents cared about public health and safety, they would ban edibles and marketing aimed toward children. When Frank asked if Lewis would be in favor of legalization if edibles were banned, the debate grew heated.

“I’m disappointed, Senator. You’re an elected official. You decided to run for office. I asked you a very simple question. You say edibles is an issue. See, I think some of these are smokescreens, to use a pun that I intend, because I think people just don’t want to deal with it,” Frank said.

You can watch the full debate here.