Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Story drafts legalization bill


Rep. Ellen Story (D-Amherst) introduced a bill to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana to the current session of the Massachusetts General Court last month. Last November, 69 percent of the Third Hampshire District voted in favor of a public policy question instructing her to support such a measure.

The bill, titled “The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act,” was drafted by Richard M. Evans, an attorney from Northampton. The bill would legalize the possession, consumption and sale of marijuana for people over 21 and establish a series of licenses requiring annual fees. A cultivation license would cost $500 per year and enable holders to “possess, propagate, grow and cultivate cannabis and carry on such other horticultural activities as are reasonably required for the commercial cultivation of cannabis.” Growers, however, could only sell to the holder of a processing license. A processing license would cost $1000 and would only allow licensees to obtain marijuana from a cultivator or an importer. Processors would have to make sure each cannabis package had proper tax stamps, warnings about a $5000 fine for driving while under the influence of marijuana and a label indicating each strain’s tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level.

Processors would also only be able to process marijuana into one ounce packages. They could sell seeds to cultivators if the seed was “capable of producing cannabis preparations having a THC content of more than 0.5 percent.”A third step of regulation would create a stage called trade. People with trade licenses would be able to act as middle men, running warehouses and transporting processed cannabis to stores, for a yearly fee of $3000. Stores would need a retail license, purchased for $2000, and could only sell to “adults not visibly intoxicated or otherwise in such a condition as may present a threat to public safety” and could only sell cannabis indoors and at a location specified by the license. Import licenses would also be available, for $2500 a year, and combined cultivation-processing-retailing licenses would be available for the same amount, as long as the entire production process took place at one location.

Evans, a former National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) board member, said he first wrote the bill in 1981 “under the delusional view that what we needed was a plan.”

He said when he first submitted it to the legislature using the right of citizen petition, he went to a hearing on the bill on Beacon Hill with a few friends. “The room was packed with opponents,” he said. “We were grossly outnumbered.”

They were so outnumbered and the committee was taking the hearing so lightly that, when each side had finished its arguments, the chairman asked the audience to vote and the proposal was soundly defeated.

Evans again proposed the bill using citizen petition in the spring of 2009 and that time the bill was actually discussed by the committee – a first, he said. He added that they were respectful, too.

Legalization has gained more support in public discourse lately, as several states have passed laws permitting people to own and grow marijuana for medicinal use, and other states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Massachusetts did so in 2008, with 65 percent voting in favor of it.

However, Evans is not optimistic about the bill’s chances.

“I don’t think it’s realistic to expect the current legalization bill to become law,” he said. “I’m real pleased that Massachusetts is in the vanguard. I have to commend Rep. Story; it’s very courageous of her.

“The important thing is that all the details are up for discussion. Its purpose is to promote a smirk-free discussion. We’re shifting from a discussion of ‘why’ to ‘how.’”

The bill would also establish a Cannabis Control Authority composed of seven part-time directors appointed to seven-year terms with a salary of 20 percent of the governor’s, or about $28,600. Some of the directors would be appointed by the governor with the approval of the governor’s council, some of them would be appointed by the president of the state senate and some would be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Directors would be barred from serving for more than 14 years.

The authority would supervise the cannabis industry in Massachusetts, create the rules and regulations participants would be required to follow and be able to revoke licensees for not following regulations, although they would have to hold a hearing. The authority would have to approve all license holders and they would have to keep careful records and file monthly reports with the authority. There would be an excise tax of $10 per one percent of THC content per ounce, collected from the processors and “Subject to approval by the General Court, such excise shall be adjusted by the authority from time to time as necessary to maximize the revenue derived therefrom, and to minimize the incentive for the sale of cannabis not in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.” No municipality would be able to issue more marijuana retail and farmer-processor-retailer licenses than it could issue liquor licenses.

“We definitely support the bill,” said University of Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition Treasurer Adam Freed. “We’re glad Ellen Story also got on board with it. This is obviously a big thing for us, because she’s a representative from Amherst. We’ve had some dealings with her in the past; she hasn’t always supported the legalization movement, but I think that she sees that her constituents in Amherst support the movement, especially after we voted . . . in favor of legalizing marijuana last year. We feel like for a representative to come forward with a legalization bill, it’s a big step.”

Evans shared that perspective.

“Hopefully it’s the first word and not the last word,” he said. “Think of it as a prototype, a concept car from Detroit.”

Evans said he believed the legislature “won’t touch the legalization bill with a 10-foot pole.” Many supporters of legalization, he said, are afraid to speak out for fear of being labeled as drug addicts, so he thinks a ballot initiative will be necessary to make legalization a reality. Evans said a successful ballot initiative would have to wait until 2014, because “substantially similar” proposals can’t be filed within four years of each other and he believes that Attorney General Martha Coakley would successfully challenge one in 2012 as being substantially similar to the decriminalization proposal.

Representatives for Governor Deval Patrick and Coakley were unavailable for comment, but both opposed decriminalization in 2008 on the grounds it would increase violent crime, traffic accidents and benefit drug dealers, according to reports in the Boston Globe from 2008.

Evans will be giving a talk on prohibition and what cannabis legalization activists can learn from efforts to repeal the 18th amendment in Campus Center Room 162 on February 28 at 7:00 p.m.

Matthew Robare can be reached at [email protected].

View Comments (7)
More to Discover

Comments (7)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • R

    Ronin555Mar 9, 2011 at 11:42 am

    As a criminal defense lawyer, I see plenty of people who have developed a very unhealthy dependence on marijuana. And, it does not suppress violence. Some people become unhinged while high — either because they become paranoid or have a bad “trip.” Nevertheless, all drugs need to be legalized. Prohibiting drugs creates a violent distribution system, makes criminals of those who, unless they’re committing crimes while high, are otherwise decent people, gives law enforcement unprecedented powers to investigate us, chokes our criminal justice system and overcrowds our prisons.

  • J

    John ChaseFeb 16, 2011 at 1:15 am

    We owe Richard Evans for his perseverance on this issue. It is very important to regulate the supply and transport of the drug. Otherwise, according to the law of supply and demand, letting people smoke while interdicting supply will increase the profit of the illegal trade, attracting in more violent, reckless men.

  • B

    BrandtFeb 15, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Marijuana is the safest drug with actual benefits for the user as opposed to alcohol which is dangerous, causes addiction, birth defects, and affects literally every organ in the body. Groups are organizing all over the country to speak their minds on reforming pot laws. I drew up a very cool poster for the cause which you can check out on my artist’s blog at Drop in and let me know what you think!

  • L

    Leonard Krivitsky, MDFeb 15, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Many people don’t realize that Cannabis prohibitio­n is completely counter-pr­oductive as it encourages people to indulge in alcohol and/or hard drugs, which are much more dangerous than Cannabis can ever be. It is proven that Cannabis use suppresses violent urges and behaviors, and “only the unsophisti­cated” think otherwise, according to the prestigiou­s “Substance Abuse: A Comprehens­ive Textbook” 4-th Edition. Marijuana Legalizati­on was advocated by Shafer Commission in 1972, something that Pres. Nixon chose to ignore, and the Administra­tive Law Judge Francis Young said in 1988 that “marijuana is one of the safest therapeuti­cally active substances known to man”. The so-called “gateway drug” theory is completely bogus, and Cannabis itself is not physically addictive as it lacks the physical “withdrawa­l syndrome” associated with its use. Drug Marinol, much touted by the DEA, is NOT “Medical Marijuana”­, as the whole plant has over 70 active compounds, interactin­g with one another and constituti­ng the “whole” that is not at all the same as any of its “parts”, as it is the “whole” that makes “parts” to be what they are. To say that marijuana does not have medicinal properties is simply the same thing as to say that the earth is flat! This is just not a “rational” statement to make altogether. And why is it that our so-called “representatives” in Congress will talk endlessly about massive cuts in social programs, but no one dares suggest that the huge DEA “marijuana enforcement” budget should be cut, and this is what most people would support, by the way! In the end, to be sure, science and reason will prevail, while ignorance and fear will lose!

  • M

    malcolm kyleFeb 15, 2011 at 5:24 am

    Ending the insanity of drug prohibition by legalized regulation, respecting the rights of the responsible users and focusing on addiction as a sickness, like we do with alcohol and tobacco, may save what remains of our economy and civil institutions along with countless lives and livelihoods. Prohibition continues unabated for shameful political reasons. It cannot, and never will, reduce drug use or addiction.

    Prohibition has permanently scarred our national character as well as our individual psyches. Our national policies and cultural practices have become pervaded by the fascistic, prohibitionist mind-set which has turned our domestic police force into a bunch of paramilitary thugs who often commit extra-judicial beatings and executions while running roughshod over our rights in order to “protect us from ourselves”.

    When we eventually manage to put the horrors of this moronothon behind us, we’ll need to engage in some very deep and honest soul-searching as to what we want to be as a nation. Many of our freedoms have been severely circumscribed or lost altogether, our economy has been trashed and our international reputation for being “free and fair” has been dragged through a putrid sewer by vicious narrow-minded drug warrior zealots who are ignorant of abstract concepts such as truth, justice and decency. We’ll need to make sure that such a catastrophe is never ever repeated. This may mean that public hearings or tribunals will be held where those who’ve been the instigators and cheerleaders of this abomination will have to answer for their serious crimes against our once prosperous and proud nation.

    Each day you remain silent, you help to destroy the Constitution, fill the prisons with our children, and empower terrorists and criminals worldwide while wasting hundreds of billions of your own tax dollars. Prohibition bears many strong and startling similarities to Torquemada­’s inquisition­, it’s supporters are servants of tyranny and hate. If you’re aware of but not enraged by it’s shear waste and cruel atrocities then both your heart and soul must surely be dead.

    Millions of fearless Egyptians have recently shown us that recognizing oppression also carries the weight of responsibility to act upon and oppose that oppression.

  • J

    Jillian GallowayFeb 14, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Marijuana doesn’t cause cancer, heart disease, brain damage, liver disease, emphysema, or overdoses, and its addictive potential is about on par with coffee. The DEA is 100% misinformed when it calls marijuana “extremely harmful”.

    The marijuana prohibition empowers the drug dealers and cartels, and makes our children LESS safe! Because of the failings of the prohibition, our children have easier access to marijuana today than they do to alcohol! We parents have been patient long enough, we must speak up and demand that marijuana be legally sold to adults in gas stations and supermarkets just as beer and wine are today!

    We need Laws based on Logic! We need to Legalize Adult Marijuana sales!!

  • R

    Rasta John Halfnickel, Esq.Feb 14, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Good interview/article.