Archive for March 28, 2009

Does Marijuana Legalization Stand a Chance in Massachusetts?

From Phishhook:

I hate to be all Sobering Suzie, buuut:

This bill has no chance of getting a favorable report from a committee, let alone passing both the House and the Senate. 

In Massachusetts, any citizen can file a bill through their local legislator. If the legislator agrees with the bill, they can file it as a normal bill, solicit cosponsors, write letters and provide testimony to committees, contact Leadership, etc. If the legislator does NOT agree with the bill, they can file it “By Request.” When a bill is filed by request, it means that they do not agree with the bill, and are solely filing it on behalf of their constituent. 

This bill was filed By Request — in the House and in the Senate (it’s the same bill in both, filed for the same, single community member). 

Neither bill has a single cosponsor, and neither the Representative nor the Senator who filed the respective House and Senate bills will do anything to advocate for them. The whole process of allowing citizens to file bills through their local electeds is largely a facade. Bills filed By Request NEVER even get out of committee. It will be burried in a study order next March, and will die with thousands of other bills.

Now, on the other hand, if there was ever an appetite for a bill like this in MA, it is right now. The state is overwhelmingly liberal (the republican party comprises a little bit more than 10% of the legislature), and needs badly new revenue. However, if this IS something that could happen in MA, it won’t be these bills that do it. 

But hey, at least it was decriminalized this past November with a ballot initiative (2-1 no less).

The anonymous poster who left this message has a point, but I’m not convinced that it’s a lost cause. Keep in mind that, just a few weeks before Question 2 passed, police officials were launching a smear campaign and the polled support had dropped by 30 points in some demographics. And in January 2008, who would even have predicted that Massachusetts would have enough signatures on the measure to put it on the ballot, let alone support it by 65%?

I look at Sobering Suzie’s post as challenge rather than a blockade. It’s clear to me that, if any two states can legalize marijuana, California and Massachusetts are certainly well-equipped. Both have very progressive laws regarding marijuana, both have decriminalized possession to some extent, and both have high rates of marijuana use. (It should be stated that this last point is probably a reason that Question 2 passed more than it is a result of it).

It is possible to pressure officials into taking action on a bill such as this. The key is to make them realize that their constituents’ support rests on it. In some sense, it is also pretty easy to get this point across to local officials. So, while I think that the fate of the bill is by no means certain, if we put pressure on legislators, it is still very much in the cards.

March 28, 2009 at 11:02 am 1 comment


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