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Massachusetts: Hearings On Recreational Marijuana Begin In Statehouse

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Hearings on recreational marijuana in Massachusetts began today, March 20, in the Statehouse in Boston, where lawmakers are considering changes in the voter-approved legislation legalizing marijuana.

Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, a Democrat, supported legalization, and has said he intends to respect voters' wishes while considering changes, including a significant increase in the proposed 3.75 percent sales tax, decreasing the number of plants citizens are allowed to grow, and increasing the legal age for purchase past 21.

Governor Charlie Baker opposed legalization and signed a bill that will likely delay the opening date of marijuana shops from January to July 2018.

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, a Democrat, also opposed legalization.

The joint House-Senate committee beginning its hearings in the Statehouse today was created by DeLeo and Rosenberg.

According to the Associated Press, members of the "Yes on 4" group that helped lead the ballot initiative legalizing marijuana are expected to testify.

The group has been defending its victory since Election Day, when 54 percent of state voters approved marijuana legalization, responding to lawmakers attempts to weaken, delay or substantially change the law.

U.S.: Pro-marijuana Campaigners Launch TV Ads Ahead Of November Votes

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Campaigns to legalize recreational marijuana use in Maine and Massachusetts launched their first television ads today, hoping to boost public awareness and support ahead of November votes on the issue.

Voters in five U.S. states will determine whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana this Election Day, following the lead of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.

The Massachusetts ads feature Tom Nolan, a former Boston Police Department officer and current professor of criminal justice at Merrimack College, promoting legalization as a way to better regulate marijuana use.

"Question 4 requires strict product labeling and child-proof packaging and bans consumption by kids," Nolan says in the 30-second spot, citing the question's position on the Nov. 8 ballot, the start of a $650,000 ad campaign.

The Maine ad also features an ex-law enforcement official, former Cumberland County Sheriff Mark Dion. He argues that legalizing the use of the drug by adults would free up police resources to investigate violent crimes. The Maine group has budgeted $1 million for its ad spending.

The campaigns launch a week after the group Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona launched its first blast of TV ads. Voters in California and Nevada will also face ballot questions on the issue this year.

Massachusetts: Boston's First Medical Marijuana Dispensary Opens

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Almost four years after voters approved medical marijuana in Massachusetts, the first Boston dispensary opened today, August 3.

The new dispensary in downtown Boston on historic Milk Street is the seventh to open in the state.

Columbia Care CEO Nicholas Vita expects business to be brisk. Columbia Care is the parent company of Patriot Care, which is opening the Boston location.

"But we don't expect it to be overwhelming," Vita said. "It's still a medically focused program so the patients we see have all received their certification from physicians approved by the state."

Fr. Joe Quinn, a friar at St. Anthony's Shrine, attended the opening on Wednesday.
"This takes away the stigma, which is wonderful," he said. "This is a medication and that's all it's used for."

There were more than 27,000 medical marijuana card holders in Massachusetts as of the end of June.

The other Massachusetts marijuana dispensaries are located in in Ayer, Brockton, Brookline, Lowell, Northampton and Salem.

U.S.: Keurig-Like Device For Marijuana Set To Hit Market Next Year

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The mainstreaming of marijuana continues: Now, a Keurig-like device is set to hit the market early next year, and a former Keurig executive is one of the co-founders of the company which will manufacture them.

There are plenty of nascent businesses springing up to serve consumers who now have access to legal cannabis. Among the offerings are tools and gadgets to go along with the weed -- and because American consumers seem to love things in "pods," there's a weed vaporizer in development right now that's being called the Keurig for marijuana, reports Mary Beth Quirk at Consumerist.

CannaKorp is the company behind the CannaCloud, the Keurig-like machine for pot, reports Curt Woodward at The Boston Globe. The device heats up the weed enough so that it releases vapor, but doesn't actually incinerate it. Consumers then inhale the vapor and get high.

Massachusetts: Senate President Rosenberg Sitting Out Marijuana Referendum

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg has not joined the group of powerhouse politicians that have united to oppose legalization of recreational marijuana, and says he is not convinced by arguments that legalizing marijuana would worsen the state's opioid addiction problem.

Rosenberg said Tuesday during a question and answer session with State House reporters that he remains unsure about a connection between marijuana use and the opiod epidemic.

“I’m not an expert so I have no opinion right now on that and I haven’t studied it,” Rosenberg said. “I’ve heard those comments. I’m not sure what they’re basing it on, and it would be helpful to see what information they’re using to come to that conclusion.”

Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo announced last month that they will lead the anti-legalization campaign fighting the ballot question that would legalize recreational marijuana use in the state. Attorney General Maura Healey has also come out against legalization, though she is not taking a role in the campaign.

Rosenberg is skeptical of the "gateway" drug argument made by Baker, Walsh and Healey that marijuana use leads to opioid abuse. He has said he believes adults should be able to make their own decisions about personal marijuana use.

Massachusetts: Baker-Walsh Anti-marijuana Group To Fight Pot Ballot Measure

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Massachusetts anti-marijuana legalization committee headed by Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo today will publicly challenge backers of the legalization measure to acknowledge the high potency of the drugs it would legalize. They want backers to admit that the marijuana industry depends on these high-potency cannabis products to make a profit.

The Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts alleges in a legal challenge, currently pending before the state’s highest court, that the marijuana legalization measure is based on misleading information about the potency of the products it would legalize. They include edibles such as cupcakes and candy and other highly concentrated forms of marijuana. Opponents call some if these "cannabis crack" because of the high amounts of THC.

“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,” the committee said in a statement to the Herald. “It will also unlock the door for the sale of dangerous edible products that are a risk for accidental use by children.”

Massachusetts: Marijuana Initiative Backers' Campaign Highlights Alcohol Hypocrisy

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Backers of a ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts are launching a campaign Friday to highlight the hypocrisy of elected officials who oppose the initiative but promote the use of a more harmful substance — alcohol.

Leaders of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol held a news conference Friday morning in front of the Massachusetts State House. They showcased a large, provocative sign featuring their first two targets, Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who just announced they have formed a committee to oppose the proposed initiative because they believe marijuana is too dangerous to regulate for adult use.

Baker has proposed legislation to loosen the state’s liquor licensing regulations and expand the number of locations in which alcohol can be served. He also supported repealing the state alcohol tax and opposed a Boston alcohol tax. Walsh proposed legislation to allow bars and restaurants to serve alcohol until 4 a.m., providing an extra two hours of drinking time.

Massachusetts: Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Responds To New Opposition Committee

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The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol on Thursday issued a statement in response to Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s announcement the same day, that they have formed a committee to oppose the campaign’s initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts.

Earlier in the day, the Western New England University Polling Institute released the results of a statewide survey that found 57 percent of Massachusetts voters support the proposed initiative and just 35 percent are opposed.

“Our campaign will not allow our opponents to claim the high road on matters of public health and safety," said Jim Borghesani, communications director for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. "The truth is that the greatest danger associated with marijuana is its illegal status. Our opponents seem to prefer that criminals control the marijuana market and sell untested, unlabeled products to people of any age.

“Gov. Baker and others need to understand that conflating the opioid epidemic with marijuana sends a very dangerous message to our youth," Borghesani said. "The blurring of lines between drugs in this country is a pattern that started with Richard Nixon more than four decades ago. And it has caused more harm than good.

Massachusetts: Politicians Form Anti-marijuana Legalization Committee

Massachusetts politicians have formed a committee to oppose marijuana legalization.

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Governor Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Speaker Robert DeLeo, and several other legislators and healthcare professionals have formed a committee to oppose legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts.

The bipartisan committee, A Campaign For A Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, was formed to oppose the upcoming ballot question that would make pot legal in the state.

“I’ve met far too many families in Boston and elsewhere where kids have lost their way in school and been shut out of success in the workplace due to addiction and abuse of marijuana,” Mayor Walsh said in a release. “Where marijuana is legal, young people are more likely to use it and a vote against legalizing the commercial marijuana industry is a vote to protect our kids and communities.”

Gov. Baker said legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts would hinder the state's fight against widespread opiod use and abuse.

“I’m happy to join Mayor Walsh, Speaker DeLeo, Senator Lewis and others in bipartisan opposition to legalizing a recreational marketplace for a drug that would put our children at risk and threaten to reverse our progress combating the growing opioid epidemic so this industry can rake in millions in profits,” said Baker in a release.

Massachusetts: Boston City Council Admits To Violating Open Meeting Law While Passing Anti-Medical Marijuana Measure

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The City of Boston recently rushed to pass an anti-medical marijuana bill in an attempt to limit the number of medical marijuana outlets in the city. A medical marijuana group, the Massachusetts Patient Advisory Alliance, made allegations that the City Council failed to follow the Open Meeting Law.

The Open Meeting Law is in place so that citizens can know what changes to law are bring proposed, and have an opportunity to provide public comment.

Per the Boston Globe:

"The Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance accused the council of violating the law by failing to provide 48 hours’ public notice before voting earlier this month on buffer zones for marijuana dispensaries.

The city said it was an honest mistake. A typographical error led to the wrong item being copied onto the printed agenda that was circulated to councilors, the city’s letter states. The city clerk discovered the mistake about 90 minutes after the agenda was posted and corrected the online version, the letter said.

"Nevertheless, we acknowledge that the mistake means that this item was not noticed for 48 hours as required by law,” states the letter from Adam Cederbaum, of the Law Department."

The group of advocates are calling for nullification of the vote, that proper notice be re-issued, and that a re-vote occur after the public has had a chance to make comments.

Massachusetts: 80-Year-Old Pot Dealer Gets 10 Year Sentence

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

An 80-year-old man who ran a marijuana-dealing operation that covered several states was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Marshall Dion pleaded guilty last year to drug and money-laundering charges. Earlier this month, US District Judge Denise Casper rejected a plea agreement that called for a five- to seven-year prison sentence for Dion. His lawyers then called for a sentence range of five to 10 years. Judge Denise Casper sentenced him to the maximum during a hearing Tuesday in US District Court in Boston.

Dion has had a long history with law enforcement. In 1985, he crash-landed a small plane in Wisconsin, breaking both his ankles. Kenosha County sheriff deputies found him crawling through a muddy field while money floated in the air around him. Dion was not charged criminally, but the government kept nearly $112,000 of the cash after a judge found it was likely drug proceeds.

He was stopped for speeding in a beat-up pickup truck in Junction City, Kansas in 2013, where police found about $828,000 in the vehicle. A federal investigation led authorities to Massachusetts and Arizona, where they found about $15 million in cash, nearly 400 pounds of marijuana and ledgers detailing drug deals going back to 1992.

Dion has been in custody since his arrest in 2013, so he has already served 2 1/2 years of his sentence.

He declined to make any comment to the court during his hearing.

Massachusetts: Marijuana Inititiative Backers Launch St. Patrick's Day Billboard In Boston

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Backers of a proposed ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts launched a St. Patrick’s Day-themed billboard Monday that highlights the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will hold a news conference today at 12 p.m. ET in front of the digital billboard, which faces Seaport Blvd. on the south side of District Hall. The ad will run through Sunday, March 20, when local and state leaders will gather for the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at the nearby Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

The billboard features a green beer, a glass of whiskey, and a marijuana leaf below the words, “Beer,” “Liquor,” and “Safer,” respectively. It directs viewers to RegulateMass.com/Safer, which details several ways in which marijuana is significantly less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and to society.

“Our goal is to make this year’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities as educational as they are enjoyable,” said CRMLA Campaign Manager Will Luzier, who previously served as executive director of the Massachusetts Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention. “While folks are celebrating with a pint of green beer or a glass of whiskey, we want them to think about the fact that marijuana is an objectively less harmful substance.

Massachusetts: Backers of Legalization Initiative To Respond To Senate Committee Report

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The special Massachusetts Senate Committee on Marijuana is scheduled to hold a news conference Tuesday, March 8, at 10:30 a.m. ET in the Senate Reading Room of the State House to release its report regarding the potential impact of regulating marijuana for adult use. Backers of a proposed November ballot initiative to regulate cannabis like alcohol in Massachusetts will hold a media availability outside the Senate Reading Room immediately following the Tuesday news conference to respond to the report.

The report is expected to include recommendations for regulations that should be enacted if marijuana prohibition is repealed by the legislature this session or by voters in November. Members of the committee traveled to Colorado in January to examine the state’s system of regulating marijuana cultivation and sales for adult use.

“We commend the Senate committee members for traveling to Colorado to examine the state’s marijuana regulatory system,” said CRMLA Communications Director Jim Borghesani. “Based on news accounts of the trip, however, it appears some committee members traveled to Colorado with a bias against regulating marijuana and sought information to buttress their positions.

Massachusetts: Backers of Marijuana Legalization Urge Legislators To Approve H. 3932

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Leaders of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will testify at a legislative hearing Monday in support of a measure that would end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol.

The Joint Committee on the Judiciary is considering H.3932 because the CRMLA submitted more than 105,000 signatures in support of the proposal in December. The measure will appear on the November ballot if the Legislature does not approve it.

“This is the Legislature’s opportunity to embrace a far more sensible marijuana policy,” said CRMLA campaign manager Will Luzier.

“Marijuana prohibition does not eliminate marijuana use," Luzier said. "It only ensures that marijuana is unregulated, untested, untaxed, and sold by gangs and criminals. It is time to regulate marijuana and stop punishing adults for consuming a substance that is less dangerous than alcohol.”

Massachusetts: Judiciary Committee To Hold Hearing On Marijuana Legalization Bill

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The Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing Wednesday on a bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use.

Dick Evans, chairman of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is supporting a 2016 ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts, assisted in drafting H.1561 and will join lead House sponsor Rep. David Rogers to testify in support of the measure.

Rogers and Evans will hold a media availability at 12:30 p.m. ET just outside of the hearing room in the State House, where they will discuss the details of the legislation and the benefits of replacing marijuana prohibition with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.

“It’s time for Massachusetts to replace the failed policy of marijuana prohibition with a more sensible system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol,” Evans said. “We support this legislative effort, but we are also committed to moving forward with the initiative so that voters can take over if the Legislature fails to act.

“Whether it happens in the legislature or at the ballot box, the result will be the same,” Evans said. “Our communities will be safer because marijuana will be produced and sold by licensed businesses instead of criminals in the underground market.

Massachusetts: Secretary of State's Office Validates Marijuana Legalization Signature Drive

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The Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office on Friday certified 70,739 signatures submitted by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, clearing the way for the petition to move forward toward the 2016 state ballot.

“Today’s announcement confirms that the people of Massachusetts want to vote on an initiative to regulate marijuana and end the practice of punishing adults for using a substance less harmful than alcohol,” said campaign manager Will Luzier. “We are excited to have reached this milestone and look forward to the legislative debate over the benefits of ending prohibition and regulating and taxing marijuana.”

The petition will now be transmitted to the Massachusetts Legislature. If the legislature does not adopt the measure, initiative backers must collect 10,792 additional signatures in June 2016 to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot.

The proposed initiative would:

· Allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow a limited number of marijuana plants in their homes, similar to home-brewing;

· Create a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail outlets, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities, which would be overseen by a commission similar to the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission (ABCC);

· Provide local governments with the authority to regulate and limit the number of marijuana establishments in their city or town; and

Massachusetts: Marijuana Legalization Drive Gets A Little Clearer

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The push to legalize marijuana in Massachusetts got a little less complicated this week. Voters had faced the possibility of two separate pro-legalization questions on next year's ballot, but now only one group's initiative is still standing.

The Committee to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) on Tuesday said it had submitted enough signatures -- more than 64,750 -- to the secretary of state to move forward in getting a proposed law in front of voters, reports Adam Vaccaro at Boston.com. If the signatures are deemed valid, the question will go to the Massachusetts Legislature; if the Legislature fails to act by May, CRMLA wilal need about 11,000 more signatures to make the ballot for November.aaaa

The leader at Bay State Repeal, a competing ballot question, on Wednesday night conceded his group hadn't gathered enough signatures to qualify. "We didn't make it, Steve Epstein said.

The two groups have pitched different approaches to legalization. The CRMLA, backed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), is of the "tax and regulate" philosophy with pages and pages of tight rules, including a new state commission and an excise tax on cannabis sales.

Massachusetts: Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Submits Final Petition Signatures

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The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol on Tuesday wrapped up its petition drive in support of a proposed ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts.

Campaign leaders submitted their final petition signatures to the Elections Division of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, which is located in the McCormack Building in Boston.

The campaign has collected more than 103,000 total signatures, and 64,750 valid signatures of registered state voters are required to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

“This is direct democracy in action,” said campaign manager Will Luzier. “People can see that our current prohibition policy isn’t working, and they’re taking action to replace it with a more sensible system. Based on the level of support and enthusiasm we saw during the petition drive, voters are ready to end prohibition and start treating marijuana more like how our state treats alcohol.”

“Massachusetts is another step closer to ending marijuana prohibition and replacing it with a more sensible policy,” said Luzier. “People are fed up with laws that punish adults simply for consuming a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol.”

“Next year, voters will have the opportunity to end the failed policy of prohibition and replace it with a more sensible system,” said Luzier, a former assistant attorney general who previously served as executive director of the Massachusetts Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention. “Marijuana is significantly less harmful than alcohol, and our laws should reflect that.”

Kansas: 80-Year-Old Marijuana Dealer Pleads Guilty In Federal Court

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The dramatic exploits of a lifetime of smuggling came to an end on Thursday when 80-year-old Marshall Herbert Dion entered his guilty plea in federal court to running a huge marijuana-dealing and money-laundering operation.

Dion, who owned houses in Massachusetts, Colorado, and Arizona, had $11 million hidden in a North Reading, Mass., storage facility, and once crawled away from a Wisconsin plane crash as thousands of dollars in cash -- suspected drug profits -- floated through the air around him, reports Milton J. Valencia at The Boston Globe.

Under his plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Dion could serve 5 to 7 years in a federal penitentiary, ending a lucrative career that spanned decades until a chance traffic stop in, of all places, Kansas.

“Over the course of the conspiracy . . . he had sold approximately 3,000 to 10,000 kilograms of marijuana,” Assistant US Attorney Leah Foley claimed during a brief court hearing.

"Mr. Dion has embraced his responsibility and is looking forward to the next chapter in his life," said his lawyer, Hank Brennan.

The end began for Dion's smuggling career with a June 2013 traffic stop in Junction City, Kansas. A police officer pulled him over for driving 80 mph in a 75 mph zone; during the stop, the officer searched Dion's old pickup and found nearly $850,000 in cash.

Massachusetts: Signature Drive Gets Underway In Support Of Marijuana Legalization Initiative

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State legislators and a former federal law enforcement official joined the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol at a news conference Tuesday in front of the State House to kick off the signature drive in support of a proposed ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts.

Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont), Reps. Jay Livingstone (D-Boston) and David Rogers (D-Cambridge), and Regina Hufnagel, a former federal corrections officer, were among the first to sign the petition.

The campaign must collect the signatures of 64,750 registered Massachusetts voters by November 18 to place the measure in front of the Massachusetts Legislature. If the legislature does not adopt the measure, initiative backers must collect 10,792 signatures in June 2016 to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot.

“I am proud to be one of the first signers of this well-crafted initiative," said state Rep. David Rogers. "I filed legislation this session to tax and regulate cannabis because our society's public health and safety strategies have failed when it comes to cannabis consumption.

"Rather than reducing use, over the years prohibition has put thousands of people in prison for nonviolent drug crimes, wasted countless tax dollars on incarceration and ineffective enforcement, and has helped give rise to a black market that funnels billions into the pockets of criminal enterprises," Rep. Rogers said. "I am glad that the people of Massachusetts will have the chance to end this failed policy in 2016.”

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