Massachusetts voted on marijuana legalization in November 2016, and passed the initiative by a healthy margin. Massachusetts joined California, Nevada, and Maine in doing so during the 2016 Election, all of which joined Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington D.C.. Massachusetts will soon be home to one of the largest adult-use cannabis markets in the country, and likely the world.
But before that market begins, the successful initiative has to be implemented. That is not an easy task, and represents what I have have often referred to as the ‘second phase of legalization.’ Having watched my home state, Oregon, go through the process of legalization implementation and all that went with it, I feel confident in saying that Massachusetts has a long road ahead. This is particularly true on the cannabis advocate side.
One would think that because Question 4 passed by a healthy margin on Election Day 2016 that it would be implemented as it was written. That will likely not be the case, just as it wasn’t the case in every other stated that has implemented a voter approved cannabis legalization initiative. Lawmakers and people overseeing the rule making process are no doubt going to try to tweak the language of the initiative to water it down. That was the case in Oregon, where one lawmaker stated that the voter approved initiative was more of a recommendation than something that voters actually wanted to see put into law as it was passed. That line of logic is flawed, but is the reality that states face after approving a legalization initiative.
The implementation process in Massachusetts will be seen by a 5 member commission. Four of the members of the commission are against cannabis legalization, which is going to cause issues. But fortunately, cannabis advocates (and believers in democracy and compassion) have a secret weapon – the fifth commission member. Shaleen Title is that fifth member of the commission, and not only is she a freedom fighting cannabis advocate, she also co-wrote the successful Massachusetts initiative.
Shaleen’s appointment to the commission is a very big deal, and not just for cannabis policy in Massachusetts. Massachusetts is going to set the tone for cannabis legalization policy for the entire East Coast, and to some extent the rest of the country. Not to downplay legalization in Maine, which is also going through the implementation process, but most eyes are on Massachusetts. Boston, because of the surrounding population and geography involved, is going to be one of the largest cannabis industry markets in the country. Many, many people are going to travel to Boston from the surrounding area to experience the freedoms that come with legalization. How things go in Massachusetts is going to majorly influence what other states in the area do.
If legalization goes well in Massachusetts, it will demonstrate to other East Coast states that it’s a good policy change to make. If legalization goes poorly, it will likely deter other states in the region from following suit. Also, if cannabis opponents are able to get crafty during the implementation phase in Massachusetts, it will be copied in other states that pass legalization initiatives or legislation. Just because a state votes to legalize does not mean that the battle is over. Opponents can cause a lot of harm during the rule making process, and how things go in Massachusetts is either going to embolden cannabis opponents, or let them know that the will of the voters is more important than their own outdated political views.
But that’s why Shaleen being on the commission is such a big deal. Shaleen is one of the most passionate advocates I have ever seen. I will put her up against 4 cannabis opponents any day of the week. She is as smart as it gets, and has a true passion for justice. I am extremely confident that she will do a stellar job, and will help ensure that the will of Massachusetts voters is respected. Her job will not be easy, but she is up to the task. It will be the job of the entire cannabis community to help support her in her new endeavor, to give her praise to help keep her morale up, and to go to bat for her if/when she is facing illogical opposition on the new commission and beyond.
On behalf of the Weed News team, I want to wish Shaleen the best and let her know that she will always have our support. Anthony Johnson, a Weed News team member, also co-wrote a successful cannabis legalization initiative (Oregon) and was also picked to help oversee the implementation phase in the state in which his initiative won. Anthony had to deal with a bunch of unfair BS inside and outside of the cannabis community (and likely still is), so if Shaleen ever needs some advice or just to vent, feel free to reach out! Knowing Anthony, he will have some wise words to share I am sure. A HUGE hat tip to Shaleen Title, go get ’em! #THECOMMISH