Massachusetts' voters approved a ballot initiative last November that legalized recreational marijuana in the state, despite opposition from some of the highest ranking officials in the state. Now those officials are in charge of implementing the new recreational marijuana law, and they're making some strange choices. Their latest is appointing an anti-marijuana politician to the state's marijuana regulation board.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced his first appointment to the state's Cannabis Control Commission, state Senator Jennifer Flanagan. While Flanagan's worked on a number of substance abuse issues in the legislature, she opposed the marijuana ballot initiative last fall. The commission will regulate both the recreational and medicinal marijuana industry, including evaluating applications to create dispensaries that are set to open in 2018. In a statement, Flanagan said, "I look forward to serving on the commission as Massachusetts moves forward in responsibly regulating this new industry."
It's not the first time Baker chose someone who opposes marijuana legalization to help regulate the emerging cannabis market. He previously appointed a police chief who frequently speaks out against legalization to an advisory board that will make recommendations to the Cannabis Control Commission.
Flanagan has some experience in drug legislation. In 2016 she worked on a bill that would help curb the state's opioid issues, although she refused to involve marijuana in that bill. A spokesman for a pro-legalization advocacy group said he hopes Flanagan will "put her personal position aside to advance the will of Massachusetts voters."
Baker, a Republican who opposed marijuana legalization, doesn't have full authority over the Cannabis Control Commission. Democratic state Treasurer Deb Goldberg and Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey will also be able to appoint people to the commission. Healey's previously advocated against marijuana legalization, but Goldberg's made many public statements more open towards cannabis. Luckily, Goldberg will be the one in charge of appointing the head of the commission.
You would think it's unusual for politicians to try to sabotage a ballot initiative that voters passed with 56 percent of the vote. But perhaps their reckoning will come when they're up for re-election.