Legalize, Tax and Regulate Marijuana

MedicalMarijuana70sq.jpgLegalize, tax, and regulate marijuana, for all of the following reasons: ethics, public health, fiscal responsibility, civil rights, jobs, public safety, environmental sustainability, common sense, and public accountability. 

It’s an ethical issue. Criminalizing the behavior of numerous otherwise law-abiding citizens for the possession of a relatively innocuous organic substance continues to ruin lives, even under the Commonwealth’s current law decriminalizing the possession of one ounce and under.

It’s a public health issue. The benefits of marijuana as a medical therapy for numerous conditions has been established conclusively. And, as we’ve seen, legalizing “medical marijuana” results in de facto legalization.

It’s a matter of fiscal responsibility. The ongoing investigation and prosecution of summary, misdemeanor, and felony level marijuana-related offenses continue to cost taxpayers more than they’re worth. At the same time, taxing the sale of marijuana will provide a dramatic boost in much-needed state revenues (NB: “Total U.S. marijuana production is 14,349 metric tons annually, with a retail value of $113 billion. In diverting this amount from the legal economy, prohibition costs at least $31.1 billion in lost tax revenues annually).

It’s a civil rights issue. Across the Commonwealth, people of color continue to suffer wildly disproportionate rates of harassment, arrests, prosecution, and incarceration on marijuana-related offenses.

 It’s a jobs issue. Legalizing marijuana will bring existing jobs around production and distribution into a legal and regulated framework, and will in addition create a raft of new jobs, especially when it comes to hemp, the use of which extends from food to fuel to health products to textiles and beyond.

It’s a public safety issue. So long as marijuana continues to remain illegal, the black market will foster violent activity on the part of organized

crime, from Mexico to Main Street.

It’s an environmental issue. Current growing practices—directly due the plant’s legal status—are wreaking environmental harm. There’s also a genuine opportunity to bring a new industry into the state that will be required to operate—from the start—under regulations guaranteeing sustainable growing methods.It’s a matter of common sense. Prohibition has been an utter failure. According to the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy, “Marijuana has remained almost `universally available’ to American youth during the last 30 years of prohibition.” Meanwhile, “cannabis use among U.S. grade 12 students rose from 27% in 1990 to 32% in 2008, while use among 19 to 28-year-olds increased from 26% in 1990 to 29% in 2008.”

It’s what the public wants. A bill with four co-sponsors is currently on the docket. The Chair of the state Senate Judiciary Committee is on the record as supporting legalization. The SIEU, the head of the American Federation of teachers, Congressmen Jim Webb and Barney Frank, and numerous high-ranking law enforcement officials have called for looking into the possibility of legalization. Additionally, it’s no longer a political third-rail: recent surveys show that a majority of Americans support legalization. And in Massachusetts, during the 2010 election, referenda questions around legalizing medical marijuana and marijuana in general appeared in on 18 ballots (nine each); all 18 passed.

Therefore, The State Committee of the Green-Rainbow Party endorses the legalization of marijuana in both the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and at the federal level.

Official Statement of the Party follows:

As of April 2, 2011, The State Committee makes the following statement the official position of the Party:

"The complete failure of marijuana prohibition and the harmful effects of the same lead to the conclusion that marijuana isn’t illegal because it’s dangerous, but that it’s dangerous because it’s illegal. With the majority of Americans now supporting legalization, the time has come to legalize medical and recreational marijuana, along with the cultivation of industrial hemp.

In doing so, the Commonwealth will relieve the undue strain prosecution creates on law enforcement and the judiciary; it will begin to resolve the striking racial disparities in drug-related arrests, prosecution, and incarceration; it will create new jobs and new revenue streams for the state; it will place this currently universally-available and unregulated substance under strict controls; and it will undercut both the profits accruing to organized crime trafficking in marijuana and the violence engendered by the same.

The Green-Rainbow Party urges caution as the state proceeds in this direction. We call for the creation of a Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Commission to investigate the best way to swiftly bring marijuana under a legal and regulatory framework. This Commission, comprising stakeholders from law enforcement, public health, public education, department of revenue, agriculture, and economic development, will develop recommendations to mitigate the problems and maximize the benefits associated with legalization to ensure that we take into account legal, health, environmental, public safety, and tax policy issues. It will produce a timetable and a legal and regulatory framework that will lead to successfully bringing marijuana into a sound regulatory regime that will ensure adequate protections for growers within the Commonwealth."

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