Local rep backs bill to legalize and tax marijuana

First in nation by a state legislature
The state legislature will consider Bill H.1561 which calls for the regulation and taxation of marijuana.

In a first for a state legislature, Mid Cape State Rep Brian Mannal (D-Barnstable) is one of over a dozen legislators who backed a bill this week to strike the word “marijuana” from much of its criminal code, and regulate and tax cannabis with a system similar to alcohol.

The proposed legislation, House Bill 1561, would make it legal for anyone over 21 years of age to possess and grow small amounts of cannabis for their personal use.

The bill would also establish a regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, processing facilities, and testing facilities.

"By all indications, recreational marijuana will be passed by a ballot initiative in Massachusetts in 2016," said Rep. Mannal. "Some people may be for or against that happening, but the likelihood of it happening is almost certain. Knowing that, it makes sense to get out in front of the issue, and lay the framework for establishing a system for cultivating and distributing marijuana that maximizes the Commonwealth's potential to maintain public safety, increase substance abuse education, and generate revenue."

"It is of paramount importance that if and when we legalize recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, we do so in a way that increases funding for drug abuse prevention and education in our schools, and helps to prevent the proliferation of marijuana use among juveniles and young adults," said Mannal.

A century of failed prohibition

Matt Simon, New England Political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a publicity release today, “Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and to society, and it ought to be treated that way.

"There is a mountain of evidence demonstrating marijuana is less addictive than alcohol, less toxic, and less likely to contribute to violent and reckless behavior. Adults shouldn’t be punished for making the safer choice."

Bill H. 1561 - "An Act to regulate and tax the cannabis industry"

Bill H.1561 is sponsored by Rep. David M. Rogers (D-Cambridge) and Sen. Patricia D. Jehlen (D-Somerville).  Section 1 of the bill begins:

 

Acknowledging that a century of criminal prohibition has failed to stop the production, distribution and use of marijuana, and that sustained enforcement efforts reasonably cannot be expected to accomplish that aim; and Determined to protect the public health and the public safety, to eliminate the black market in marijuana by licensing sufficient legal retail outlets and allowing marijuana producers to participate within a lawful system of production and distribution, and to reasonably suppress the availability of marijuana to persons under the age of 21; and Informed by the success of education and treatment instead of arrest and incarceration to reduce adult and adolescent use of tobacco and alcohol, two substances with far greater documented harm to public health than marijuana; and Endeavoring to promote new opportunities in Massachusetts agriculture, manufacturing and commerce in products from cannabis, including industrial hemp; and Demanding transparency, fairness and objectivity in the selection of licensees; and Respecting the personal autonomy of adults, among whom freedom supposes responsibility..."

A question on the 2016 ballot

Marijuana Policy Project says it plans to put a question on the 2016 ballot to regulate and tax marijuana if the bill fails to win support on Beacon Hill.

Voters have already approved two previous pro-marijuana ballot questions.


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