Recre­ational mar­i­juana law takes ef­fect in Mas­sachusetts

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY BOB SALSBERG

BOS­TON | Hav­ing spent nearly three decades cru­sad­ing for re­laxed mar­i­juana laws in Mas­sachusetts, Bill Down­ing is greet­ing the state’s new recre­ational mar­i­juana law with a mix of sat­is­fac­tion and trep­i­da­tion.

The voter-ap­proved mea­sure took ef­fect on Thurs­day, mak­ing it le­gal for adults to pos­sess, grow and use lim­ited amounts of pot.

“I am both cel­e­brat­ing and wor­ry­ing that the law might not be im­ple­mented prop­erly,” said Mr. Down­ing, mem­ber li­ai­son for the Mas­sachusetts Cannabis Re­form Coali­tion.

The con­cerns of Mr. Down­ing and other ac­tivists stem from pub­lic state­ments by Demo­cratic leg­isla­tive lead­ers and Repub­li­can Gov. Char­lie Baker promis­ing a re­view and pos­si­ble changes to the bal­lot mea­sure, which passed last month by a mar­gin of more than 240,000 votes out of nearly 3.8 mil­lion to­tal votes cast.

“The only lim­i­ta­tion is how will­ing they are to tread on the will of their con­stituents,” Mr. Down­ing said of law­mak­ers.

Mas­sachusetts is the first U.S. state on the east­ern seaboard where recre­ational mar­i­juana is le­gal, though Maine will soon fol­low if a re­count up­holds pas­sage of a bal­lot mea­sure there.

The Mas­sachusetts law al­lows adults 21 and over to pos­sess up to an ounce of pot out­side the home, up to 10 ounces in­side the home and grow up to a dozen mar­i­juana plants per house­hold.

But as it will be at least a year be­fore li­censed pot shops are al­lowed to open, recre­ational users still have lit­tle choice but to buy the drug from il­le­gal deal­ers.

The wishes of the vot­ers will be re­spected, pledged Mr. Baker, who strongly op­posed le­gal­iza­tion. But he de­fended ef­forts that may lead to re­vi­sions.

“It was a 6,000 word bal­lot ques­tion writ­ten by the recre­ational mar­i­juana in­dus­try for the recre­ational mar­i­juana in­dus­try,” said Mr. Baker, who spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press from a trade mis­sion in Is­rael. “So I ex­pect the Leg­is­la­ture will want to deal with things like po­tency, home rule. What are go­ing to be the rules about where you can lo­cate [re­tail] fa­cil­i­ties and what lo­cal con­trol does lo­cal govern­ment have about that?”

One pos­si­bil­ity, Mr. Baker said, was ex­tend­ing reg­u­la­tory dead­lines in the law by six months, which could push the start of com­mer­cial mar­i­juana sales into mid-2018.

In an eight-page memo sent Wed­nes­day to po­lice de­part­ments in Mas­sachusetts, Sec­re­tary of Pub­lic Safety Daniel Ben­nett said im­ple­men­ta­tion of recre­ational mar­i­juana “will cre­ate a com­plex web of dif­fer­ent rules,” that law en­force­ment must nav­i­gate.

“Within cer­tain lim­its, the new law au­tho­rizes some con­duct that had pre­vi­ously been pro­hib­ited. Be­yond those lim­its, how­ever, pos­ses­sion, cul­ti­va­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion of mar­i­juana re­main il­le­gal un­der state law,” wrote Mr. Ben­nett.

For his part, Mr. Down­ing planned to join other le­gal­iza­tion ad­vo­cates out­side the State­house on Thurs­day to cel­e­brate the law for­mally tak­ing ef­fect.

As con­sump­tion of mar­i­juana in pub­lic places re­mains il­le­gal, he had no plans to use pot at the rally but would not be shocked if oth­ers did as an act of “civil dis­obe­di­ence.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

It is le­gal in Mas­sachusetts for adults to pos­sess, grow and use lim­ited amounts of recre­ational mar­i­juana af­ter the voter-ap­proved law took ef­fect on Thurs­day.

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