NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

September 26, 2013

A giant step forward on marijuana laws

To the editor:

The national conversation on marijuana laws took giant steps forward last month. Senator Leahy (D-Vt.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced the committee would hold a hearing this month on the conflict between federal and state marijuana laws. His announcement was followed by the Justice Department announcing it was “deferring its right to challenge” the Colorado and Washington initiatives that “tax and regulate marijuana like alcoholic beverages.”

Repeal of the federal prohibition is doubtful before the 2014 election at the earliest. However, the department announcement concedes it lacks the resources to address marijuana activity with or without the assistance of “state and local authorities.” The department also understands that “The Constitution simply does not give Congress the authority to require the states” to provide that assistance.

Massachusetts began serious conversation with 2008’s ballot question that decriminalized an ounce or less. The conversation continued with 2012’s ballot question allowing for the medicinal use of marijuana and continues over implementation of that law.

Soon it will turn to repealing the prohibition on adult cultivation of cannabis and commerce in marijuana. If the Legislature fails to act before May 2016, the conversation will culminate Election Day 2016 with Bay State voters replacing prohibition with a law that treats the adult cultivation and commerce in marijuana like the herb/agricultural commodity it is and focuses our energies and resources on punishing those who provide marijuana to children.

When we look back on marijuana prohibition in 2017, we will recognize opponents of ending the failed and profligate prohibition created a tempest in a teapot.

Steven S. Epstein

Georgetown

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