Eight Massachusetts state senators, who form a special committee on marijuana, took a trip to Colorado in early January to get familiar with the stuff they are in charge of legislating. Some were charmingly clueless about how one goes from cannabis possession to stoned.
“If I were to buy this, what would I do with it? Do I crush it? Roll it?” Senator John F. Keenan asked a Colorado budtender at RiverRock Cannabis. He later wanted to know, “Do you sell the balm?”
This was more than a senate bonding trip — five of the eight oppose pot legalization and the other three are publicly undecided. The octet was there to get their minds around what is likely to be the future of their own state. With legislative action unlikely before November, marijuana’s legal status will be determined by Massachusetts voters via ballot initiative. With Massachusetts voters favoring legalization 53-37 according to a Suffolk/Boston Herald poll from one year ago, legislators are getting ready for this likely future.
In addition to getting a look at some Sour Diesel and Purple Kush, the senators visited with the Colorado Department of Public Health and spoke with local police chiefs.
“We’ve learned that legalization in Colorado has gone reasonably well,” said Senator Jason Lewis, who organized the trip. Lewis is undecided on legalization for his own state.
The five senators opposed to legalization were careful not to learn too much.
“Aside from health and public safety considerations, there are significant financial and logistical obstacles associated with implementation that require a more in-depth analysis,” Senator Michael O. Moore told the Boston Globe. Moore seems to be willfully ignoring the fact that Colorado’s marijuana taxes brought in over $100 million last year.
The other specific point the opposing senators brought up was the risk of children getting ahold of edibles. Senator Viriato M. deMacedo cited “safety issues around edibles, regulatory clashes with other states, and the drain on public safety and health resources” as reasons he is not willing to risk legalization. Colorado has already addressed the issue of kids accidentally getting high on edibles with labeling regulations and child-resistant packaging.
While it’s frustrating to hear elected officials pretend that legalization will suddenly cause a huge uptick in pot usage (it’s almost like they think criminalization prevents usage), it’s encouraging to see those who oppose legalization still treating it like an inevitability. Voters have been far ahead of their representatives on legalization, but even the opponents are shifting from morally outraged to concerned about public safety.
It’s a strange new world out there, but nothing a brave state senate can’t handle.
“While I have many concerns, especially the potential impact on our youth, I am confident that should the ballot question pass we can implement a safe and heavily regulated system,” said undecided senator James T. Welch.
Soon enough, Massachusetts residents will be legally crushing it, rolling it and smoking it, all while pulling their reluctant state senators into the right side of history.
What do you think about this marijuana field trip? Should other senators visit legal states when their home state is considering adult-use cannabis?