Vote NO to legalizing the marijuana industry in Massachusetts.
26 05, 2016

ICYMI – Medical Pot Dispensaries Can Cash In With Ballot Question

Medical pot dispensaries can cash in with ballot question
Commonwealth Magazine
Jack Sullivan
May 24, 2016

THE MEDICAL MARIJUANA INDUSTRY in Massachusetts, which has been struggling to get off the ground, could hit the jackpot if voters this fall approve a ballot question legalizing the commercial sale and recreational use of the drug.

The ballot question gives the operators of medical marijuana dispensaries, even those who have only filed applications for a dispensary license, the first shot at retail marijuana licenses. Marijuana advocates say it makes sense to give the initial retail licenses to firms with some experience growing and selling medical marijuana, but critics say the language of the ballot question shows how the industry’s profit motive is driving public policy.

Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael, who was a member of the commission that reviewed and approved the first round of applicants for medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation licenses, said Massachusetts voters are being victimized by “the old bait and switch.” He said voters approved medical marijuana in 2012 out of a sense of compassion, but it now looks as if that whole initiative was designed to set the stage for legalizing retail sales at medical marijuana establishments. “It’s about making a profit,” he said.

According to the proposed ballot initiative, the state during the first year after passage would issue as many as 75 licenses to retail establishments, as well as a similar number of licenses to product manufacturers and to cultivators. The referendum allows medical marijuana operators to go to the front of the line, even if they’ve never opened a dispensary, before any new applicants are considered.

“The commission shall issue licenses first to qualified applicants who submitted applications for registrations to operate medical marijuana treatment centers to the Department of Public Health by October 1, 2015, and then by lottery among qualified applicants,” according to one section of the referendum.

Six medical marijuana dispensaries are currently operating in Massachusetts and another 16 have received provisional certificates to open, according to the Department of Public Health. There are also at least 80 organizations with nearly 150 pending applications that would be eligible to open retail marijuana operations under the ballot question. Of the 225 retail, manufacturer, and cultivator licenses that could be awarded in the first year, 75 percent could theoretically go to medical marijuana operators or applicants.

When the medical marijuana bill was passed, organizations looking to operate dispensaries and cultivation facilities were required to form nonprofits, with revenues strictly regulated and profits limited. The referendum legalizing marijuana sales would allow those companies to switch to for-profit status with the approval of two-thirds of their directors.

Kris Krane, president and cofounder of 4Front Ventures of Arizona, which advises, manages, and invests in medical and legal marijuana operators around the country, was part of the group that wrote the Massachusetts ballot initiative and said the wording is based on the laws passed in Colorado and Oregon.

“This is the formula that has been followed in every state that has legalized marijuana use,” said Krane, who now lives in Roslindale. “I’m not going to hide the fact there’s going to be a short-term business benefit for [medical dispensary operators.] There is certainly some truth to cthe laim the medical marijuana business will see a business boon if this thing passes. Those existing businesses in the state are going to have a competitive advantage no matter what.”

Krane’s company has a medical marijuana arm called Mission Partners, which operates Mission Massachusetts with an office on State Street in Boston.

The group running the push for the ballot question, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, operates out of office space donated by 4Front and the rent is listed as an in-kind campaign contribution. Mission Massachusetts has also donated $2,500 to the campaign and 4Front has donated $3,500.

Mission Massachusetts, which records show was started with $2 million in seed money from 4Front Ventures, has three applications pending before the Department of Public Health to operate medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. Because Mission Massachusetts has yet to be awarded a license, the organization has not identified where it plans to site the dispensaries.

Krane said he’s been advocating for changing marijuana laws for years, long before states began passing laws allowing the sale of medical marijuana and decriminalizing personal possession. “My involvement in this goes way beyond the industry, way before there was an industry,” he said.

A DPH spokesman said the agency is aware of the wording in the referendum but declined comment.

Will Luzier, a former assistant attorney general who is the campaign manager for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, said it’s “theoretically possible” all 75 retail licenses could be gobbled up by the medical marijuana applicants before any other commercial ventures get a chance to apply.

Luzier said the referendum calls for the creation of a Cannabis Board that would issue the 75 “transitional” licenses for operating in 2018, the first year pot would be able to be sold legally if the ballot question passes. Dispensaries that are already operating or have been issued provisional licenses would be the first, followed by groups that have applications pending before the DEP that were submitted before October 1, 2015. The medical marijuana law states that groups can submit up to three applications for dispensaries and Luzier said one commercial license could be issued for each application.

“They would certainly get preference,” said Luzier. “It’s also important to remember there’s only three [applications.] It’s not like there’s six or eight. And there’s hundreds of thousands of people buying from the criminal market. Right now, it’s commercialization by criminals. This way, it’s tested and safe, not tainted or contaminated with whatever.”

The referendum would also prevent cities and towns from restricting medical dispensaries from adding a retail component to their existing operations, although side deals with individual dispensaries can be negotiated. Boston, for example, is finalizing a host agreement with Patriot Care Corp. for a medical marijuana dispensary on Milk Street. That agreement is likely to contain a clause barring the company from launching retail sales at the site.

Norwood Selectman William Plasko was in the majority on the board when members gave the thumbs-up to two medical marijuana dispensaries in the town. Plasko, who opposes legalizing marijuana, said he was not aware the medical marijuana dispensaries could add for-profit retail operations if the ballot question passes.

Plasko also said the agreements have not been finalized and he may ask colleagues to redraft it.

“We haven’t signed final agreements so maybe we’ll stick that in there,” he said. “We’re still working on the final wording.”

Norwood Police Chief William Brooks, president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, warned officials that this was a potential result if medical marijuana dispensaries were allowed to open even as nonprofits.

“I think the whole thing is ludicrous,” he said. “To have a large-scale shop in town, that would be one of the first in the state, selling medical and commercially, I think it will draw a lot of people into town… Medical marijuana is supposed to be nonprofit but there’s an awful lot of money going into this.”

To read the rest of the story, please click here.

25 05, 2016

WTAS – The Marijuana Industry’s War On The Poor

“Big Tobacco takes a disproportionate toll on the working class and poor, but thrives on image of upscale glamor. Expect more of the same from Big Marijuana.”

Big Marijuana’s “War on the Poor”
Colorado Springs Gazette Editorial
May 24, 2016

Big Tobacco takes a disproportionate toll on the working class and poor, but thrives on an image of upscale glamor. Expect more of the same from Big Marijuana.

Media have glamorized the drug since Colorado legalized it for recreational use, but a new story by Politico highlights what seems obvious to anyone in Colorado's most economically challenged neighborhoods. The headline sums it up: "The Marijuana Industry's War on the Poor - Denver's booming pot industry may be trendy, but it's giving poorer neighborhoods a headache."

The "headache" is literal and figurative. The stench of pot is so pungent in some struggling neighborhoods it causes genuine headaches. In a figurative sense, the marijuana gold rush is causing an array of grievances no more welcome than a migraine.

North Denver's Elyria-Swansea neighborhood hosts one marijuana business for every 91 residents. In addition to smelling up the place, the businesses are in the way of economic development and opportunity.

"We have people who have tried to start businesses, and they weren't able to lease the spaces because the marijuana industry came in and could make a higher offer - and do it instantly," explained a neighborhood activist at a conference in April, as quoted by Politico. "We've borne the burden of the state and city's growth at the cost of our residents."

Residents of Northeast Park Hill and Globeville neighborhoods express similar concerns.

Drew Dutcher, an architect and activist in an area inundated with pot businesses, told Politico the industry's negative consequences may undermine a slate of neighborhood plans that were intended to improve the quality of life.

The smell of pot has become so intense, the story explains, it often overpowers the odor of north Denver's notoriously smelly pet food factory.

"When you can't smell Purina, it's the 'headache' marijuana smell that gets you more than anything," said Albus Brooks, the city councilman who represents Elyria-Swansea and Globeville,

To read the full editorial, click here.

20 05, 2016

ICYMI – After medical marijuana linked to Mass. Pike fatality, police speak out against legalizing pot


After medical marijuana linked to Mass. Pike fatality, police speak out against legalizing pot
Worcester Telegram and Gazette
Brian Lee
May 19, 2016

After details emerged that a Webster motorist allegedly had smoked medical marijuana before the car crash that killed a state trooper, the executive director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association said his organization had “expressed these concerns right along.”

A. Wayne Sampson, executive director of the police chiefs organization, spoke Thursday about the continuing liberalization of marijuana laws and how that plays out on roads and highways.

In 2009, a state law took effect decriminalizing possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. Four years later, medical marijuana became legal in Massachusetts.

In November, voters will decide a ballot petition aimed at making recreational use of marijuana legal. Four states and the District of Columbia have already legalized marijuana for recreational use.

But in the wake of the crash March 16 on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Charlton that killed Trooper Thomas Clardy of Hudson, and the indictment of motorist David Njuguna, Mr. Sampson said the fatal crash could ignite a better dialogue about the current petition. Mr. Njuguna was held on $500,000 bail Wednesday in Worcester Superior Court.

Jim Borghesani, spokesman for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, said the campaign declined to comment.

In Mr. Njuguna's hometown, Webster Police Lt. Michael D. Shaw said the news that THC, the mind-altering ingredient in marijuana, was in Mr. Njuguna's system after the crash was "a huge concern going forward, especially with the ballot initiative" to legalize marijuana.

Noting that he knew of middle-school-age children who believe that it's not wrong to smoke marijuana, and that most of Webster's violent crimes involved marijuana, Lt. Shaw suggested that legalization would send the wrong message and "create more problems than we are ready for."

Mr. Sampson of the chief's association said, “One of the arguments that we’ve been making is, for every effort that public safety makes now to keep drunk drivers off the road, we’re not successful there. The number of people killed every year in drunk driving accidents is very high. Certainly by making marijuana available legally, it’s only going to put an additional burden on public safety.”

He said Mr. Njuguna's case also exposes that there is no valid test for police to determine if somebody is under the influence of marijuana at the time that they’re being stopped, placing “a tremendous burden on law enforcement” and creating “a tremendous public safety issue.”

Mr. Sampson went on to say that advocates for the legalization of marijuana were misinforming the public "every single step of the way," including about medicinal uses.

“Let’s be serious,” he said. “They’re buying a drug legally, and that’s all it is. There is no prescriptive value to it. It may make them feel better temporarily. … But does it help them get better? Does it medically cure them? Absolutely not. All it does is it gives them a high, to temporarily relieve the pain. That’s the reality of it. The public is being misled.”

Mr. Sampson said one would like to think that the public “would be smart enough to understand that you can’t drive down the road smoking a blunt,” but added, “we’re never going to be able to stop that” now that medical marijuana is here.

That close to 25,000 people already possess medical marijuana cards in the state, or as Mr. Sampson said, had “paid a doctor to give them a prescription so they can use it,” was concerning with respect to the volume “of people that are potentially out there using it and driving.”

Citing a drug addiction crisis and other concerns, the Houses of Representatives in both New Hampshire and Vermont recently defeated legislation that would have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Mr. Sampson said, “I think a lot of states are looking at the data that’s coming out of other states (where recreational use is legal), and they’re getting very concerned about it.

When told details of Mr. Njuguna’s case, Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Washington, D.C., mentioned his organization's codification of “principles of responsible marijuana use.” One is not to drive under the influence.

Asked if there needed to be greater awareness about responsible use of medicinal marijuana, Mr. Armentano said, “Certainly one could argue that any time there is a shift in marijuana policy, there should be a parallel campaign that educates the public as to what the changes in law mean, and what behavior is now allowed, and what behavior remains impermissible.”

Regarding whether it was the patient's, the retailer's or the state’s responsibility to provide that education, Mr. Armentano said: “All parties need to take responsibility for this, including the state. Whenever there is a significant change in law, one would like to see some sort of public education campaign to educate the general public.

“Obviously, the consumers themselves need to take responsibility if they’re going to engage in the act or purchasing or consuming cannabis. The retailers that provide those products also obviously bear responsibility when it comes to educating the consumers, to make sure that they act in a responsible manner.

To read the complete article, click here.

10 05, 2016

ICYMI – AAA: Fatal Crashes Involving Drivers Who Used Marijuana Doubled In One Year After Marijuana Legalization


One in six drivers involved in a fatal crash in Washington in 2014 ad recently used the drug

Report ties pot use to uptick in fatal crashes in Washington state
State House News Service
Matt Murphy
May 10, 2016

A new report analyzing vehicular accidents in Washington found that the number of fatal crashes involving drivers who recently used marijuana doubled after the state legalized the drug in 2012.

The finding is giving new ammunition to legalization opponents in Massachusetts, where a recent poll showed voters split on the issue.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released its research Tuesday showing that the percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes who recently used marijuana more than doubled from 8 percent to 17 percent between 2013 and 2014. One in six drivers involved in a fatal crash in Washington in 2014 had recently used the drug, according to the foundation.

"We are still learning the impact of legalization in other states, but these troubling numbers should give everyone pause about allowing an industry into Massachusetts that will so dramatically impact the health and safety of so many families," said Corey Welford, spokesman for the Campaign for Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, in a statement.

AAA researchers also examined lab results of drivers arrested for impaired driving, and concluded that legal limits for marijuana and driving are "problematic" because of the lack of science around a specific level of marijuana in the blood that can reliably be used to judge impairment.

To read the full article, click here.

9 05, 2016

WTAS: Walker Column – “Personally, I can be counted among those uncomfortable with legalization.”

Column follows Suffolk University/Boston Globe Poll That Shows Public Evenly Divided Over Ballot Question To Legalize Commercial Marijuana Industry

Mass. more ambivalent about legal marijuana than you might think
By Adrian Walker
Boston Globe
May 8, 2016

Everyone attuned to state politics has heard the same cry for months: The ballot question legalizing marijuana is nearly certain to pass. The politicians leading a fight against it are wasting their breath.

Not so fast.

A new Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll shows that voters are almost evenly divided on the question, with those polled leaning, by a slight margin — 46 percent to 43 — against legalization. In a state that has already decriminalized marijuana, and approved it for medical use, many voters see little reason to go farther.

Personally, I can be counted among those uncomfortable with legalization. I had no problem with decriminalization. No one should be arrested for smoking a joint. Medical marijuana? Of course people suffering with crippling illnesses should have access to regulated medication that will help to alleviate their suffering. That strikes me as a matter of basic humanity.

But I’m not sure that means we want to become Colorado.

A spokesman for one of the groups advocating for passage of the ballot question told me his group wasn’t surprised by the poll. “We never had any illusions that this would be an easy battle,” said Jim Borghesani of The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. “As far as we’re concerned, it’s always going to be an uphill battle.”

The arguments for legalization are familiar. Marijuana would be regulated, supposedly improving the quality and safety of the product. The state can tax it. Criminals will be driven out of the industry — replaced, I suppose, by the chemists in fancy suits who have reinvented themselves as medical marijuana entrepreneurs. Marijuana is no more dangerous than booze. I find the last argument especially unpersuasive, given the wreckage often left by alcohol. But there’s no question that the legal stigma of marijuana has fallen precipitously in recent years, as the acceptance of medical marijuana reflects.

The state’s most popular elected officials have mobilized to oppose the question. Governor Charlie Baker, Mayor Marty Walsh and Attorney General Maura Healey have joined forces in a bipartisan effort to stop the question. They have framed their objections in the context of the heartbreaking opioid epidemic that is claiming lives by the week. Given their collective popularity, they would seem to be formidable adversaries.

Central to their argument is that legalizing marijuana makes little sense in a state battling a tragic and terrifying drug epidemic. Whether marijuana is or isn’t a contributor to the opioid crisis, they believe the state should err of the side of caution. That argument may be gaining traction. Certainly, this is not an ideal political environment to advocate for legalizing drugs, no matter how much proponents of the ballot question ridicule the “gateway drug” argument.

To read rest of column, click here.

6 05, 2016

ICYMI – Colorado Marijuana Industry Admits Its Business Model Relies On Highly Potent Products, Including Edibles

Admits Proposed Ban On Products With THC Over 16% Would “Gut” Industry

 “It would probably ban all the concentrates and most of the edibles and most of the flowers that people grow, too. Most of the flower that our industry is growing is above 16% THC.”
-Executive Director of the Colorado-based Marijuana Industry Group

 Colorado’s Cannabis Industry Under Attack on Several Fronts
Marijuana Business Daily
By John Schroyer
May 3, 2016

On the surface, it might appear that Colorado’s $1 billion marijuana industry has been unencumbered by legal roadblocks or political opposition, given its speedy growth in recent years.

Nothing is further from the truth, however, particularly for the state’s recreational cannabis sector.

Nearly three out of every four municipalities in Colorado have banned recreational marijuana businesses since voters in the state approved adult-use cannabis more than three years ago.

Business owners also continually must confront new regulations and attempts by citizens and local lawmakers to trim the industry’s wings.

In fact, the pushback against the industry has reached new levels in the past few months, creating a highly uncertain climate for cannabis businesses in the state, threatening future growth, and making it difficult for companies to expand or even just plan for the future.

Just last week, for example, Denver City Council members approved strict caps on the number of marijuana retail stores and cultivation sites that can operate inside the Mile High City.

“It’d be nice just to have six months or a year where we don’t have to fear for our lives, but it doesn’t seem to happen in this industry,” said Bob Eschino, owner and founder of Medically Correct, a Denver producer of the popular Incredibles line of infused products.

“We are under attack, and the attacks are getting worse,” he added. “I don’t think people understand that this industry fights for its life every couple of months.”

Effort to ‘Gut’ Rec Industry

To be sure, Colorado’s marijuana industry is thriving.

Medical and recreational cannabis sales hit nearly $1 billion in the state last year, and revenues are on track to rise substantially in 2016 as well.

As of April 1, the state’s recreational marijuana industry boasted 426 retail stores and 530 cultivators, according to the latest data, while its MMJ industry counted 523 dispensaries and 774 licensed growers.

But there are efforts underway – and some that have already succeeded – to reign in future growth and change the landscape.

Perhaps the biggest potential threat this year to Colorado’s marijuana industry, both recreational and medical, is a proposed statewide ballot initiative to ban any marijuana products with a potency of more than 16% THC.

“It literally would gut Amendment 64,” said Mike Elliott, executive director of the Colorado-based trade association the Marijuana Industry Group, referring to the 2012 ballot measure creating the state’s rec industry. “It would probably ban all the concentrates and most of the edibles and most of the flowers that people grow, too. Most of the flower that our industry is growing is above 16% THC.”

It’s not clear yet if the measure stands a chance of making the ballot, however.

There’s no sign the two proponents – a retired high school principal named Ron Castagna and a person named Ali Pruitts – have serious money behind their effort. The initiative’s supporters must submit at least 98,492 signatures to the secretary of state’s office by Aug. 8 to make the ballot.

Smart Colorado, one of the state’s more prominent cannabis industry opponents, hasn’t taken a formal position on the measure, spokeswoman Henny Lasley said Monday. She said the group may or may not become involved in the campaign.

Smart Colorado did, however, support a similar cap that was proposed as an amendment to a bill at the state legislature in March.

“We’re not trying to shut down the marijuana industry,” Lasley said. “What we’re trying to do is raise awareness, specifically around high-potency products.”

Smart Colorado has spent more than $60,000 on lobbying efforts at the state capitol since 2014, according to data on the secretary of state’s website.

To read the complete article, visit here.

5 05, 2016

In Response to Lawsuit, Anti-Legalization Campaign Calls On Marijuana Industry To Come Clean With Voters And Acknowledge Industry’s Reliance On Higher Potency of Drug

Marijuana Industry in Colorado Openly Admits Its Profits Depend on High Potency Products

BOSTON – Today, the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts called on backers of the ballot measure to legalize commercial marijuana in Massachusetts to come clean with voters and acknowledge a reality their own industry insiders elsewhere openly admit: the drug they want to produce and sell is vastly more potent and powerful than the marijuana around a few decades back.

Last week, a lawsuit (Hensley vs. Attorney General) was filed with the Supreme Judicial Court challenging the initiative petition to legalize the commercial marijuana industry in Massachusetts, including on grounds the measure and certain descriptive materials about it don’t properly reflect how much higher THC levels are nowadays than in the drug traditionally termed marijuana.

While the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts is not affiliated with this lawsuit and views its substance as a matter for the court to decide, the campaign believes the legal challenge highlights very real issues:

  • Today’s commercial marijuana industry is producing and pushing products with average THC levels multiple times higher than found in the 1970s—frequently at or above the 15% THC level that the Dutch government has moved to classify as a prohibited “hard drug.”
  • Edible products, which the ballot measure specifically authorizes, make up about half the marijuana market in Colorado and would likely do the same here. Edibles use extracts with THC content that can rise as high as 90%.
  • In an interview published two days ago, the head of Colorado’s marijuana trade association told a news outlet that an effort in his state to cap THC levels at 16% “literally would gut” his industry. Marijuana Business Daily quoted Mike Elliot, executive director of The Marijuana Industry Group, as saying the proposed THC cap would “would probably ban all the concentrates and most of the edibles and most of the flowers that people grow, too. Most of the flower that our industry is growing is above 16% THC.” (

The Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts issued the following statement in response to the legal challenge:

“The would-be marijuana industry in Massachusetts is trying to play hide the ball with the real issue people are voting on. People deserve to know that this ballot question would allow the industry to market and sell a drug that is much more potent than what existed even a generation ago. It will also unlock the door for the sale of dangerous edible products that are a risk for accidental use by children. People deserve to know what they are voting on, and the marijuana industry should acknowledge what it openly admits in Colorado – that its profits depend on high potency products.”

A hearing on the legal challenge will be argued in a special session of the SJC on June 8.

Additional Background:

  • The ballot question imposes no limits or restrictions on potency and expressly authorizes edible products.
  • Commercialized marijuana in Colorado has an average potency of approximately 18%. (The Massachusetts legal challenge seeks to reference the drug that would be legalized by the ballot measure as “hashish” to reflect the higher potency.) Genetically modified products have THC levels of up to 80-90%.
  • Marijuana potency in the 1970s and 1980s was approximately 2-4%.
4 05, 2016

Behavioral Health Association Opposes Commercial Legalization of Marijuana

During Opiate Crisis, Urges Voters To Reject Effort To Commercialize Another Addictive Drug

BOSTON – A statewide association of organizations committed to providing behavioral healthcare in Massachusetts has voiced its opposition to the proposed initiative to legalize the commercial marijuana industry in Massachusetts.

The Association for Behavioral Healthcare (ABH) voted to oppose the ballot referendum last week. ABH represents more than eighty community-based mental health and addiction provider organizations across Massachusetts. Its members serve approximately 81,000 Massachusetts residents daily and 1.5 million annually.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of families struggling with addiction during this devastating opiate crisis,” Vicker DiGravio, CEO of ABH said. “We do not believe now is the time to increase access to another addictive drug in our state. We hope as people learn more about this ballot question, they will vote against commercializing a drug that we see impact far too many young people and families.”

ABH’s Board also urged public officials to address addiction as a public health concern by expanding access to treatment as an alternative to prosecution and incarceration.

ABH joins a growing coalition of health care and community leaders, anti-addiction advocates, educators, business groups, first responders, and families who are opposing this proposed legalization of the commercial marijuana industry in Massachusetts.

Among the groups that have already come out in opposition to this initiative include: the Massachusetts Hospital Association, the Massachusetts Medical Society, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Association of School Superintendents, and all Massachusetts District Attorneys.

The Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts is the Committee formed to oppose this ballot question. It has launched a website at and twitter account at @safehealthyma.