That didn’t take long. Immediately after Massachusetts voters passed Question 4 to legalize marijuana, the top office-holder tasked with leading the implementation and regulation of the law, Treasurer Deb Goldberg, was already asking to change it.
She wasn’t alone. Within a week of people passing the initiative to tax and regulate cannabis, many other influential Bay State politicians - and at least one hack scribe, Boston Globe pro-business siren Shirley Leung - were advocating to repeal parts of the law that 1,745,945 heads pulled for.
The day after the initiative passed, Goldberg kicked it off by gesturing to extend deadlines. Later in the week, she voiced support for the state legislature to outlaw the 6-12 plant home grow provision and to increase the tax rate. Goldberg said home grows would hurt retail sales, and cut into the state’s take as well, which is interesting since weeks ago the treasurer was complaining that the initiative was written by the commercial marijuana industry. Now she seemingly supports holding consumers captive to a marketplace that she presumably distrusts. Go figure.
And then there’s Senate President Stan Rosenberg, who supported the initiative (when he wasn’t complaining that lawmakers could have written it better, that despite the fact that both the Senate and House failed to allow a full chamber vote on any marijuana law in the last 20-plus years). Rosenberg told the Globe, “I believe that when voters vote on most ballot questions, they are voting in principle. They are not voting on the fine detail that is contained within the proposal.” That’s quite the statement. Many voters would dispute such a characterization. Especially in this case, and especially as far as home grow goes.
“I absolutely voted for home grows,” says Stephen Mandile, a local veteran. “If the ballot question banned home grows, I would have voted [against it].”
Communicating with other readers and people in the cannabis community, I heard the same thing.
“Home grow is very important,” says Isaac Caplan, who also went for the initiative. “The only way to know exactly how quality your weed is is to grow it yourself.”
A few more for good measure. Matthew Krawitz, a voter from Swampscott, agrees. “Just as I can brew beer in my basement, I should be able to grow a reasonable amount of marijuana for personal use.”
According to Peter Bernard, director at the Massachusetts Grower Advocacy Council, “We will fight to keep home grows. That’s part of what the voters voted for. Regulate? Sure. Completely ban a home grow or arbitrarily change the tax structure? Not so fast. It’s like giving something and then immediately taking it away before you can even get the wrapper off.”
In a subsequent interview with a television news station, Sen. Rosenberg edited himself, telling a reporter, “I don’t believe people will be willing to get rid of home grown, but there may be some changes that would have to occur in that.”
In a remarkable moment of honesty, even Gov. Charlie Baker, who actively campaigned against the initiative, told the State House News Service, “That was one piece [the home grow provision] of that 6,000-word ballot question that I think a lot of people understood straight out of the gate.”
As for the enduring prohibitionist forces at the Globe, they’re only getting more relentless. A page-one story in November gave space for police chiefs to cry foul and repeat demonstrably nonsensical talking points about potency and home grow electrical fires, while Leung jabbed, “Congratulations Massachusetts, we just passed one of the worst pot bills in the country. Now what?”
She has one hell of a selective crystal ball; while Leung foresees a nightmare weedscape on the near horizon, on the subject of her beloved Boston 2024 Olympics, the columnist once claimed “we’ll never really know” how that sunken charade would have ended for taxpayers.
Leung is pushing the same capitalist crap we are now seeing from innumerable politicians, right down to the municipal level. They have no proof to support the claim that taxes at the rate of 3.75 percent (an excise tax on top of sales tax) won’t cover the cost of implementation, yet point to the cost of regulation as a reason to increase the tax. At the same time, none have expressed much worry about the financial burden of locking up growers. Spending government resources on busting micro-grows? A-OK for this crowd. No concerns regarding those expenditures.
You’ll get a similar story from Nicholas Vita, chief executive officer of Columbia Care, which holds three medical marijuana licenses in Massachusetts (including one for Patriot Care in Boston). Vita cited his concerns about public safety in interviews, all while shamelessly omitting the reality that home grows could put a substantial dent in operations like his that sell ounces for upwards of $400.
The cries of those exaggerators and alarmists considered, I turned back to those who believe that they deserve a choice about where to obtain their legal cannabis. David Pratt, a Hyannis resident who backed legalization, notes: “Home grow is the most important part of any legalization. Without home grow we are at the mercy of the ‘big industry’ [prohibitionists] say they are so concerned about.”
“The will of the people has been voiced,” says Bernard of the Massachusetts Grower Advocacy Council. “Let’s go with that before we try to break it. Nothing recreational will be out there until it all gets sorted out with the Cannabis Commission and licensing. So really, there is no recreational market before these things are in place. I know lots of people that would not have voted for it without the home grow provision. Changing the law this soon is blatantly against what voters voted on.”
Mike Crawford is a medical marijuana patient, the host of The Young Jurks on WEMF Radio, and the author of the weekly column The Tokin' Truth, which is produced in coordination with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He is also a regular contributor to Civilized.