June 21 2017

Democratic State Sen. Candidates Respond to Question on Recreational Marijuana Law

By: Rich Hosford

The three Democratic candidates for the Massachusetts 4th Middlesex State Senate District seat left vacant with the passing of former State Sen. Ken Donnelly met for a forum at Grand View Farm during an event put on by the Burlington Democratic Town Committee last Wednesday.

The Democratic candidates vying for votes in the Special State Primary that will be held on June 27 are State Rep. Sean Garballey (currently representing the 23rd Middlesex District), Donnelly’s former chief of staff Cindy Friedman and member of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Mary Ann Stewart.

One of the questions asked of the candidates by a member of the audience was whether they support the ballot question that legalizes recreational marijuana that was approved by voters last November. The question came a day after a proposed House bill that, among other things, would have raised the tax rate from 12 to 28 percent, was postponed after disagreements among representatives and an outcry from constituents.

That bill would also have shifted the power to outright ban recreational marijuana from voters to local governing bodies such as boards of selectmen, city councils and Town Meetings.

All three candidates said they support the will of the voters and called on the state legislature not to go too far with taxes and regulations.

Garballey

“We need to keep the will of the voters intact,” Garballey said of the proposed bill.

He said he was glad it was placed on hold, saying he didn’t think it was the right bill for the situation.

“I think it’s important we get the marijuana legislation done right,” he said.

He said there were two things he wanted to state legislature to keep in mind while drafting the rules for recreational marijuana sales: ensuring there are safeguards to keep it out of minors and to push for the technology for detect inebriation.

“We need to address the technology of breathalyzers for detecting it so that public safety is addressed,” he said.

Friedman

Friedman said she did not want to see the recreational marijuana law follow the same course as medical marijuana has in the state legislature.

“I am quite worried that what we’re seeing with the recreational marijuana bill is exactly what we saw with the medical marijuana bill,” she said, explaining that the delay in allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to open has hurt patients who need it.

Friedman said she was recently visited by a district resident who works with children with epilepsy and told her a story about a girl who suffered from seizures every day until she started taking a certain type of cannabis. The family still has to travel out of state to get the strain she needs because of delays in rolling out the rules for dispensaries, Friedman said.

“And now we’re watching the legislature do the same thing,” she said.

Friedman also spoke against the proposal to raise the taxes on recreational marijuana to 28 percent.

“Guys we don’t tax alcohol at one percent,” she said. “Now they’re saying they are going to tax it [marijuana] at 28 percent which will just send it right back into an underground economy and we won’t be able to address the issues we wanted to address by making it legal.”

Stewart

Stewart said she too hoped the state legislature would heed the will of the people.

“The voters voted to support Question 4 last fall and it’s part of the process that the legislature has to take it up and implement the regulations,” she said. “I was waiting to see what the recommendation could be. When it came out that it was going to be taxed at 28 percent and we don’t tax alcohol at anywhere near that amount I found it concerning. People are very anxious about where this is going.”

She too raised concerns about medical marijuana is being rolled out and hopes that the process is not repeated.

“The medical marijuana felt like a mess,” she said. “I have a friend who was suffering from cancer and had a hard time figuring it all out.”

Stewart also encouraged citizens who support the legalization to reach out to their elected officials.

“All I can say is I hope there is an outcry from people outside the State House and they do make calls,” she said. “I’m also very concerned about where we are with this.”

Watch the full forum here.


 

 
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