Thinking Clearly About Pot

images-6The Massachusetts legislature is considering bill H1561, which will regulate and tax the cannabis industry, repealing the current law prohibiting cultivation and commerce in marijuana.  The bill legalizes recreational use of marijuana.

There are two concerns; first, is whether cannabis is a gateway to more serious drug abuse, and second, is its potential affect on our young.  A 2013 survey by the US Dept. of Health and Human Services revealed that marijuana was identified by 70.3% of non-alcohol substance abusers as their initiating drug. Federal research conducted at the University of Mississippi revealed that average THC level; the active ingredient in marijuana is 13%.  Thirty years ago these levels were not nearly as potent.  Teenagers using pot with higher THC levels face a significant risk of harm to their emotional and intellectual development.

Legalization will not diminish use of marijuana in Massachusetts.  The supply will expand as retailers market their product.  The increased supply and commercial marketing will draw more younger users. As with alcohol, the substance will be diverted to them on a larger scale.

The promise of added revenue is questionable.  Responsible implementation of marijuana for recreational use will require an expensive regulatory system.  Municipalities will bear the cost of enforcement, while the revenues will go into the state’s general fund. Municipalities will need added building codes to contend with containment of odors, ventilation and electrical systems.

Release and disposal of waste and cultivation by-products might also affect water treatment, raising the cost.  Plans to tax legitimate marijuana retailers also has limits. They will be competing against an established illegal systems over cost and THC content.

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The Federal government regards marijuana trade as illegal, posing financial risks.  This will force the industry to operate on a cash basis.  FDIC banks won’t touch state generated marijuana money.  A regulated industry, operating on a solely cash basis, is an invitation to graft, crime and racketeering. Tax revenues generated by the federally banned industry could also be subject to seizure.

Prudent adjustments have been made regarding the use of marijuana in our society.   Possession of small amounts has been decriminalized.  Medicinal use is now legal. With the epidemic rise in opiate use, there is no prudent reason to go forward at this time. We urge representative James Arciero to oppose this bill.

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