Mass. Lawmakers Consider Legalizing, Taxing Pot
Massachusetts lawmakers held a public hearing today on a bill to legalize marijuana. The bill would allow Massachusetts to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana as it currently does liquor and tobacco.
Democratic Representative Ellen Story of Amherst, the sponsor of the bill, says the measure would benefit public health and the state’s pocketbook.
“One is that this is in the interest of public health so that if marijuana is regulated, you know what you are buying. And the other is the state needs more money. This would allow the state to benefit from the sale of marijuana by taxing it.”
Her testimony earned some scattered applause from the packed hearing room. But Kevin Sabet , of the advocacy group The Massachusetts Prevention Alliance, says marijuana is dangerous, especially for teens, and should not be legalized.
“Today’s marijuana is not your grandfather’s pot. This is the marijuana that is much more harmful. It’s grown purposefully to enhance the THC which creates the high in the drug and therefore we’re seeing increases in emergency room admissions, increases in mental health issues – especially schizophrenia, increases in driving accidents…”
Despite a huge public turnout in support of the bill, observers say the measure probably won’t pass. But there will likely be a separate ballot measure in the fall that will ask voters to legalize medical marijuana. In 2008, voters changed the law so those caught with small amount of marijuana would only face a fine and not criminal charges.