Last month, Beacon Hill lawmakers approved a bill that would delay the opening of recreational marijuana stores from January to July 2018. According to The Boston Globe, there were no public hearings and no formal public notice. Governor Charlie Baker signed the bill on Dec. 30.
Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg claimed at an open gallery that the delay “will allow the necessary time for the Legislature to work with stakeholders on improving the new law,” according to the Globe, citing “public health and safety” concerns.
In a nation where recreational stores have already existed in Colorado since Jan. 2014, just a measly 13 months after recreational use went into effect, it is absurd to think that Massachusetts lawmakers will need two and a half years to properly craft effective marijuana laws, especially when Colorado has given them a base from which to work off of.
It is no secret that many lawmakers and organizations vehemently opposed Ballot Question 4, which allowed for limited recreational use in the state as of Dec. 15., despite 54 percent of voters supporting it, Gov. Baker being one of them.
“Public and health concerns” have been a common criticism of marijuana, but hardly hold up to scrutiny. Because of its long-held illegal status, few studies have been allowed to happen in this country unhindered.
Opponents of marijuana have used this opportunity to make vociferous and outrageous claims about the substance, such as a recent Berkshire United Way article that claims “those who used marijuana heavily in their teens and continued through adulthood showed a permanent drop in IQ of 8 points,” citing a 2012 “recent study” from the University of Oregon. Like many other studies from this time period, it fails to delineate a cause-effect relationship between marijuana and low IQ from correlation, but it doesn’t matter, one flawed study is enough for organizations like Berkshire United Way to advertise such a claim as a fact.
And despite the roadblocks marijuana studies have faced, recent findings have managed to affirm public knowledge of the drug as harmless, even beneficial, such as a 2015 Cornell University study finding “no measurable link between marijuana use and low IQ.” Of course, the common rhetoric from marijuana opponents is that the science isn’t there, and to some extent, they’re right, but not for long.
As more and more states go legal, more opportunities for testing will open up. Colorado already allows for testing facilities, and many other states will follow suite. There will be no excuses for government to follow the will of the people, unless they take the route of climate change deniers.
Still, as long as the private prison industry and other special interests have a personal stake in keeping marijuana illegal, it is unlikely the country as a whole will embrace the drug the way they should. Marijuana is less destructive than alcohol and has psychological and medical benefits, and the hemp plant it comes from has several commercial uses, such as paper, plastic, and clothing.
Beacon Hill, like those who vehemently opposed medical marijuana dispensaries in Berkshire County before them, are just delaying the inevitable. Question 4 passed, they’re just wasting everyone’s time. They don’t need two and a half years to do what Colorado did in 13 months, without precedent.
Mitchell Chapman is a page designer, copy editor and occasional contributor to The Berkshire Eagle. He is also the Editor of The Beacon, the student newspaper of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.