When the majority of Massachusetts voters chose to end prohibition against adult use of marijuana in the Commonwealth, they didn't expect a sliver of a minority of legislators to meet secretly while the Legislature was in recess to draft a law that would delay the opening of retail marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts by six months.
A single dissenting vote, or a governor who stuck to his word about respecting the will of the voters and ensuring full participation by the Legislature, would have stopped this delay from happening.
As Governor Baker slithered out the back of the State House after signing the delay into law on Friday, December 30, a group of outraged citizens gathered at its front steps to talk to media and passersby about the eleventh hour affront to democracy and voters' will.
The protesters expressed their disappointment for being disrespected along with their concerns for what the delay means for consumers, patients and businesses. At minimum, the 6-month delay means that adults will continue to shop in the black market, that fentanyl-laced and mold-infested mystery marijuana will continue to be passed around our communities. It also means a loss of income to the dispensary owners and their employees, vendors and service providers, and a loss of needed tax revenue to help our schools, infrastructure, addiction and mental health services and more.
And it wasn't just the professionals, parents, patients, veterans and other activists who were dismayed by the delay. The Boston Globe's editorial team wrote:
"Whatever the merits of the decision, though, making changes to laws without voting isn’t how an accountable, representative government is supposed to function. Going forward, the Legislature should ensure that changes to the marijuana law follow normal legislative procedures." - Boston Globe
One needn't be an anti-prohibitionist to see how unfair to voters -- and disrespectful to democracy -- this delay is. And one needn't be a soothsayer to predict additional delays and back-room dealings from Governor Baker and other members of the Massachusetts Legislature who clearly do not want to keep their jobs come the next election cycle. There is already talk about raising taxes and amending the home growing provision.
The challenge now is to not only be prepared for delays but to make sure that our local representatives know that they will lose their jobs if they continue to disrespect the will of the voters. A six-month delay will have no impact on the number of people using marijuana, but it will deny safe access while financing the black market. Click here to find your local representatives and get involved.