Why Massachusetts Adopting Social Cannabis Use Rules Is A Very Big Deal

(image via Mary Jane’s film)

If you have followed my blog posts over the years, then you know that I am a big supporter of social cannabis use reform. Social cannabis use reform involves allowing regulated cannabis consumption at establishments and events. It’s no secret that cannabis consumption occurs at private businesses and events all the time. That is a fact that marijuana opponents largely ignore, acting like if social cannabis use reform doesn’t occur, that somehow that translates to no cannabis being consumed on bar porches, in alleys, or among the huddled masses at concerts and cannabis competitions.

That public policy approach is irresponsible and unrealistic. It also results in disproportionate enforcement of public cannabis consumption laws against minority communities, as retired NBA All-Star Clifford ‘Uncle Cliffy’ Robinson pointed out in his public testimony in support of social cannabis use reform in Oregon earlier this year.

It’s much more logical to recognize that cannabis is being consumed at businesses and events, and institute regulations to ensure that such consumption is done in a responsible manner. Voters in 8 states (and Washington D.C.) have made it clear that they want marijuana to be regulated like alcohol. But marijuana will never be truly regulated like alcohol until social use reform is implemented in states that have legalized cannabis.

Oakland, California allows entities to apply for on-site cannabis consumption permits. Denver, Colorado voters approved Initiative 300 in 2016 which created social use regulations and applications are now being accepted for social use permits in Denver. States like Oregon, Alaska, and Maine have explored the idea of creating state-level social use regulations, but so far have failed to do so. Massachusetts stepped up big yesterday when it approved state-level social cannabis use regulations, which I am fairly certain makes them the first state to do so (if I am wrong, feel free to link to the first in the comments!). Per WBUR:

The state agency responsible for regulating legalized marijuana approved a policy on Monday that will allow for such establishments, so-called “cannabis cafes,” to open — where one can buy a cannabis product and then legally consume it on the premises, just like buying a drink at a bar.

“The idea of on-site consumption is that people who are using cannabis would have a legal place to do it other than their own home,” said Shaleen Title, a commissioner on the Cannabis Control Commission.

She authored the policy, which was voted in unanimously by all five members of the commission. State law prohibits marijuana use in public, but allows the commission to license on-premises establishments. Title says establishments can provide modeling for responsible cannabis use.

You may recognize the name Shaleen Title from an article I posted back in September. Shaleen is a freedom fighter, and as I said back in September her appointment to the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission was a very big deal. Time is clearly showing that to be true. Shaleen’s policy was approved unanimously by all five members of the commission, which is significant. Shaleen Title is now officially the undisputed champion of social cannabis use reform in America, and future efforts are going to benefit from her work and wisdom.

Now that Massachusetts has adopted social cannabis use regulations it will make it easier to pass similar measures in other states. I attended a public hearing in Oregon for a social use reform bill this year, and one of the re-occurring talking points that I heard from cannabis opponents and concerned lawmakers was that no other state had implemented social use regulations and therefore Oregon should wait and keep the status quo in place. It proved to be a major hurdle that activists in Oregon couldn’t quite overcome. The talking point was specifically cited as the reason why my state representative wouldn’t endorse the bill.

I am happy to say that that talking point can no longer be used in Oregon or any other state where social use reform is being pushed. Opponents and hesitant lawmakers will still likely cling to the ‘what about the children’ and ‘we fear increased DUIIs’ talking points, but even those talking points will lose their zest now that Massachusetts is implementing social use regulations. If Massachusetts can regulate social use in a way that properly addresses the children and stoned drivers talking points, so can every other state where cannabis is legal or becomes legal.

A huge, HUGE hat tip to the amazing Shaleen Title for making it all happen in Massachusetts. Her work is something that activists will be pointing to for years to come. I know I certainly will be!

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