By Melanie Petrucci, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Westborough resident and School Committee Chair Jody Hensley appeared before the Board of Selectmen at their Oct. 25 meeting to request that they formally oppose ballot Question 4, which if approved by voters in the Nov. 8 election, would legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Accompanied by state representatives Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury) and Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston), Hensley gave a PowerPoint presentation citing why the board should oppose the ballot question. The bipartisan coalition opposing Question 4 includes healthcare professionals, businesspeople, educators, community leaders, public safety officers and elected officials.
“There is a lot of information and a lot of misinformation…I think it is important for a few reasons to say ‘no’ to Question 4,” Hensley said. “We don’t need Question 4. We have already decriminalized marijuana in small amounts, we already have made medical marijuana for those that need it with policy in place in the commonwealth already, and we don’t need to increase the drug supply and access to marijuana in our communities through full-scale commercial and recreational sales in every city and town.”
“Ninety-five percent of the funds raised to support this ballot question come from outside Massachusetts, through a Political Action Committee based in Washington, D.C.,” she added.
In her presentation, Hensley noted that Question 4 would legalize and commercialize the recreational use of marijuana with an industry target of $1.2 billion in sales in Massachusetts within two years. She claimed that the marijuana grown is far more potent than it once was and that high potency edibles that are aggressively promoted pose a risk to youth.
The impact of mass commercialization of marijuana for residents and communities, Hensley noted, include: no limit on number of stores; no limit on potency; authorizes marijuana and THC edibles and concentrates, amending the state’s food and safety laws to change the definition of “food adulteration” so that this hallucinogen (THC) can be added to the food supply; and allows for the mass marketing of marijuana products and accessories.
Home owners will be allowed 12 plants per household and may give away one ounce.
The tax rates would be so low, they would not be sufficient to cover the cost of the regulation, which the state would bear, Hensley said. There would be no protections against drugged driving; currently there is no way to test for this.
If passed, Question 4 would place the burden of proof on communities and state for actions to regulate the marijuana businesses.
Hensley also noted that existing medical marijuana treatment centers would automatically get the first opportunity to sell recreational marijuana.
Dykema recognized Kane for her role and leadership with the coalition.
“From my perspective being in the State Legislature for eight years, I think the level of coordinated opposition to this ballot question is something to be proud of from both parties,” Dykema said.
Kane added, “The chief challenge is explaining it because it is complex with regards to regulation. We think that the important thing that we are doing is getting out there and educating the voters of the true intent of this ballot question.”
The Board of Selectmen voted 5-0 in favor of signing the resolution to oppose the ballot question.