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April 25, 2014

Marijuana activist asks Legislature to legalize pot

BOSTON — With evidence accumulating in the Rocky Mountains and on the Pacific Coast about the effects of legalized and regulated marijuana sales, activists are pushing Bay State lawmakers to take the plunge into a legitimate marijuana marketplace.

“The sky has not fallen in Colorado,” Richard Evans, a Northampton attorney, told the Judiciary Committee yesterday. He said violent crime and property crimes are down in Denver. Voters in Colorado and Washington state both legalized marijuana in 2012.

Having won fights to decriminalize under an ounce of marijuana in a 2008 ballot vote and the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes on the 2012 ballot, pro-pot activists in Massachusetts are girding for another electoral contest in 2016 to legalize the drug for recreational use.

Meanwhile Patrick Kennedy, the former congressman from Rhode Island who has struggled with addiction, is evangelizing around the country about the dangers of marijuana legalization.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana, led by Kennedy, claims the drug is now much more accessible to Colorado youth who can conceal their intake by using vaporizers rather than smoking it, and notes research about permanent effects the drug has on users.

“We cannot promote a comprehensive system of mental health treatment and marijuana legalization, which increases permissiveness for a drug that directly contributes to mental illness,” Kennedy said in a quote on the SAM website.

Bay State Repeal, the ballot group, has reported little fundraising since its inception last November through the end of the year, but ballot initiatives for relaxing marijuana laws have proved popular in Massachusetts even as legislation regularly fails to gain traction in the Legislature.

“The issue before this committee today, Mr. Chairman, as I see it is not how marijuana is going to be legalized in Massachusetts. The issue is who’s going to do it? Is it going to be the Legislature, or will it be the voters?” Evans asked the Judiciary Committee.

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