By Benjamin Solomon, Staff Writer
In November 2016, the people of Massachusetts voted for a referendum to allow marijuana to be used recreationally and possessed in limited quantities by individuals over 21 years old.
Why is it that people here still can’t buy it for recreational use?
In short, Massachusetts lawmakers haven’t gotten around to it yet.The referendum requires that some regulations be in place by particular dates, but the legislature passed a bill to delay some of the rules by six months.
It took the legislature over eight months from the passage of the referendum to set up the Cannabis Advisory Board.
This board is meant to research and make regulatory recommendations and its members are appointed by elected officials.
A month later, in September 2017, the Cannabis Control Commission was established.
There are five commissioners who are meant to submit ideas to the Advisory Board and also receive recommendations from the board.
The Cannabis Control Commission is the actual body that is supposed to make final decisions on which regulations will come to be.
They created a draft of regulations, but they have not gone into action yet.
The Commission also holds public meetings and hearings, so while they may be appointed officials, there is opportunity for input from the people.
Recreational marijuana should start to be available in July of this year.
It took a long time for Massachusetts to get the ball rolling, but the work is finally being done. There are deadlines coming up this spring that include beginning to accept applications for sale licenses.
It seems like the state government was not expecting the referendum to pass.
Several important figures did not want it to pass. Governor Charlie Baker was and is very against recreational marijuana. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh actually called legalization a “huge mistake”.
These, among other politicians, have almost certainly played a roll in the languid pace of applying the law.
This probably is a result of the fact that the method of legalization was a referendum, not passage of a law by legislature.
Essentially, people in favor of legalization went around the government, which probably did not help them earn the good will of the people who would be enforcing the law.
That being said, only Vermont has passed recreational marijuana through legislation. All eight other states used referendums.
That hasn’t stopped California and Colorado from rolling out the regulations in reasonable time.
State politicians have even another reason to delay.
Marijuana is still illegal federally and the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has expressed hostility toward it.
It is not in the interest of politicians to have legal conflicts with the federal government.
There has been little discussion of this happening, but the federal government could threaten to take away various funding it gives the states in order to force them to ban marijuana.
This is the tactic that was used to raise the minimum age to drink alcohol to 21 nationwide.
This is the same reason that marijuana is still banned on the campus at UMass Dartmouth, regardless of age. Twas tolerated, the school would likely put federal funding in jeopardy.
The result is that because of the lack of support from federal and state government, Massachusetts was not ready for this change. It took the state three years from the passage of medical marijuana to begin selling that in much more limited amounts.
With that in mind, it should not be so shocking that recreational marijuana is not available immediately, since this seems to be a recurring theme. But it’s still okay to be impatient.