By K.B. Sherman, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – State Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury) appeared before the Shrewsbury Board of Selectmen to brief them on her take of state Ballot Question 4 – to legalize recreational marijuana in Massachusetts.
She claimed that the industry expects within two years of legalizing recreational marijuana it could be a $1.2 billion market in Massachusetts. Noting Colorado’s history with recreational marijuana, she told the meeting that recreational marijuana contains 17-18 percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects), about five times as much as the recreational marijuana from the 1980s, and that edibles can have a potency as high as 95 percent THC.
She then highlighted all of the aspects of the bill coming before voters: There will be no limit on the number of stores that can sell recreational marijuana or the potency of the product; mass-marketing will be allowed; cities and towns cannot limit or regulate home-growing; tax rates are to be set very low, meaning little revenue after new expenses for the state; there will be no protection against “drugged-driving;” and the bill contains a legal “loophole” under which the industry can invalidate any rule which it believes is “unreasonably impracticable.”
Further, she continued, the proposition, if passed, will require communities to allow a recreational marijuana store anywhere there is legal medical marijuana sold and will require towns to get a majority vote of citizens if it wants to opt out. Any medical marijuana shop will be able to add recreational marijuana sales. Any city or town that now has a medical marijuana shop must be allowed to also sell recreational marijuana – no zoning or act of the Cannabis Control Commission can interfere. Finally, if recreational marijuana state regulations are not in place by Jan. 1, 2018, medical marijuana shops must be allowed to start to sell recreationally.
Finally, said Kane, Question 4 presents an initiative process for “marijuana bars” in cities and towns; 10 percent of voters can force a vote to allow marijuana consumption on business premises. There is no threshold provision in the law to prevent “drugged-driving” and currently no field test for determining impairment, unlike alcohol which can be detected with a breathalyzer. Kane noted that marijuana can stay in the body’s fat cells for as long as a month.
Financially, said Kane, this proposition makes no sense. Marijuana taxes in other states are as high as 43 percent. In Mass., this proposition will cap sales and excise taxes at 10 percent, with a local option of 2 percent. If passed Tuesday, Nov. 8, it will become law Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, when the legislature is out of formal session. While a three-person Cannabis Control Commission will be established, it has no start-up funding source identified. Massachusetts would be the fifth state to legalize marijuana. Washington State’s experience has been that marijuana impaired fatal driving accidents have doubled in the first since legalization in that state.
“The implications of this vote may blind-side people,” said Kane.
Kane wrapped up her presentation by telling the selectmen that she has been working to educate and inform voters prior to the November vote.
“I have been working as part of a broad, diverse, bi-partisan coalition, including the medical community and businesses,” she said. “This is not a simple philosophical vote we are being asked to take, this is a question of do we want to implement legalization of recreational marijuana in this specific manner.”