Dumb & Dumber / and Smart / legalize it / don't criticize it / judges smoke it / nurses smoke it / doctors smoke it ... (-- Peter Tosh)
Springfield, Massachusetts is the home of Homer Simpson. DOH!
Letters to the Editor
The Daily Hampshire Gazette
(Northampton, Massachusetts USA)
To the Editor:
The Gazette's editorial "New Revenue Ideas" (26 March) is the Dumber that follows the Springfield City Council's Dumb enhanced, punitive, anti-Sin fines on adults caught with less than one ounce of marijuana.
Springfield has a long, consistent history of Dumb and dangerous drug policy decisions. Now The Gazette asks Northampton to follow Springfield's latest foot-shooting idea.
Any editorial writer who urges us to follow Springfield's lead should first wander Springfield on foot, by day and by night -- when gunfire, and police and ambulance sirens are heard most often.
These sounds are conspicuously absent from Northampton -- but, with The Gazette's editorial help, that can change.
Statewide, voters Just Said No to a lifelong criminal record for adult possession, loudly, with 65 percent voting Yes on Question 2. In Hampshire County (less Amherst), they said it louder: 70 percent.
Resources raising revenue are resources stolen from protecting and serving.
But Dumb and Dumber was followed on the next day's Front Page by Authentically Smart: Northampton lawyer Richard Evans' proposed state law to legalize, supervise and tax adult marijuana use ("Bill filed to legalize, tax pot") -- exactly as we supervise and heavily tax adult alcohol and tobacco use today.
In 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, we took alcohol back from the violent criminal gangs who had paid no taxes on their huge profits. Prohibition had made law, law enforcement and government the nation's laughing stock. We stopped making criminals of every adult who drank a beer or glass of whiskey -- and Americans have been happy to pay stiff taxes to their governments ever since.
The Daily Hampshire Gazette
Northampton, Massachusetts USA
Thursday 26 March 2009
In Our Opinion:
New revenue ideas
Springfield may be on to something.
The city council this week voted to add $100-$300 to the state penalties for using marijuana in a park or other public place.
Last November Massachusetts voters made the possession of small amounts of marijuana a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $100 for those who are caught smoking pot in a public place. Cities and towns, which enforce the law, have the option of adding on additional fines, and that's what Springfield will do. It has raised some concerns among civil libertarians and may still need to be tested in court, but as a revenue-generating idea we think it has merit and deserve consideration. Amherst could make a windfall slapping fines on all the people who show up for the annual Extravaganja - the celebration of marijuana - on the town common. Hiking the fines is also a good way to discourage the public use of the drug.
Then there is Gov. Deval Patrick's proposal to extend the state's 5 percent sales tax to alcohol, candy and soda.
Right now food is exempt from the sale tax, which it should be, but candy, soda and booze are not among the major food groups for a healthy diet.
The governor has pitched this as a way to encourage "healthy choices" and raise $121 million for health programs, like substance abuse prevention. The governor argues that the tax "might discourage the consumption of empty calories." Obesity is a problem and soda and candy are big factors in making Americans overweight. Patrick is taking some heat from those who say he is imposing his idea of healthy eating habits on state residents.
Frankly, Patrick doesn't need to make the argument on health. The state needs revenue - along with greater efficiencies and a closer watch on wasteful spending. Tax candy, booze and soda for the money. If it promotes healthier lifestyles, all the better, but taxing discretionary products makes more sense than some of the other proposals being floated.
Extending the sales tax and raising fines for using marijuana in public are worth discussing.
The Daily Hampshire Gazette
Northampton, Massachusetts USA
Friday 27 March 2009
Page 1 / above the fold
Bill filed to legalize, tax pot:
Local petitioner highlights revenue
by Matt Rocheleau
Gazette Contributing Writer
A bill to legalize and tax marijuana in Massachusetts has been introduced to both the House and Senate, after a request by a Northampton man.
State Rep. Ellen Story, D-Amherst, and state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, each filed the bill by request from petitioner and Northampton resident Dick M. Evans.
Officials from both of the legislators' offices said they generally file all petitions they receive, which may be submitted by individuals, and said this is not necessarily an endorsement or sponsorship of a bill's content.
Evans, 65, an attorney, filed the bill as a private citizen and said the money generated through placing a sales tax on marijuana could be in the millions. According to Rosenberg's chief of staff Nick Puleo, the senator does not believe the bill has the support to pass through the Senate right now.
A similar bill to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana was recently introduced in California. The California Board of Equalization, which collects taxes, estimated California's potential revenue from doing so at U$1,300,000,000 per year.
During an online town hall-style meeting from the White House Thursday, President Barack Obama said one of the most popular questions submitted was whether legalization of marijuana would help the country's economy. Obama answered by saying he didn't think that it was a good economic policy, according to The Associated Press.
Besides being an attempt to earn the state more money, Evans said, the bill is meant "to prompt an open and honest debate about the wisdom and efficacy of marijuana prohibition."
"I'm not trying to legalize it; I'm trying to talk about it," said Evans. "I'm trying to open the door to discussion."
Rosenberg does not necessarily support the bill, said Puleo, but his decision on whether he would approve a vote on the bill in the Senate would depend on what the final draft looks like. Bills often change before reaching the Senate floor.
Evans was optimistic during a March 25 interview with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws [NORML], where he once worked on the group's board of directors.
"I'm confident that there will be widespread support for regulation and taxation," he said at the time. "I don't know anyone that opposes it, frankly."
Under Senate Bill 1801 and House Bill 2929, both filed on Jan. 16 and titled "An Act to Regulate and Tax the Cannabis Industry," possession or cultivation of cannabis by a person, over 21 years old, for personal use would be made legal.
Treated like alcohol
The legislation would also allow for marijuana to be sold. Selling marijuana would be taxed and legal to only licensed individuals and is modeled after Chapter 138 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, which regulates the selling and taxation of alcohol.
There is no set timetable yet on bill's next step, being reviewed by committee.
Cannabis grown for personal use would not be taxed. Marijuana grown or distributed for a profit would be divided into three taxation classes based on how much tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive component of marijuana, each contained.
Cannabis with more than 1 percent but less than 5 percent THC would be Class C and taxed $150 per ounce. Marijuana with 5 percent or more but less than 10 percent THC would be taxed $200 per ounce as Class B. Class A, containing 10 percent or more THC, would be taxed $250 per ounce.
The percentages of THC would be determined by comparing the THC content to dry weight, without seeds.
The state-run Cannabis Control Authority would be created to supervise "the conduct of the business of cultivating, possessing, distributing, sale at retail and wholesale and importing cannabis, and also of the quality, purity and grade thereof."
Revenue generated by taxation would cover the costs associated with the authority, and excess funds would go to the commonwealth.
The authority would receive $2.5 million in initial funding from the state and would be responsible for licensing retailers, importers, farmers, processors and traders, and wholesale distributors. The cost of each license ranges from $1,000 annually for a processing license up to $3,000 for a trader license.
The bill comes at a time when dozens of towns in the state, including Springfield, are trying to increase the penalties for marijuana use, which were reduced statewide when nearly two-thirds of voters approved decriminalization legislation via a ballot question in November.
Meanwhile, bills looking to legalize growing marijuana for medicinal purposes are also under consideration by state legislators.
UMass Cannabis Reform Coalition said the group supports the idea of regulation and taxation, but currently is putting its focus on legalizing medicinal marijuana, according to CRC treasurer Alex Arsenault.
Medical might make more sense
"We did just pass Question 2 a few months ago," said Arsenault, who said that passing a bill for legalization might be tough because decriminalization was approved so recently. "The next logical step is legalizing medicinal marijuana."
"No living person is responsible for the prohibition laws," said Evans on a Web site, www.cantaxreg.com, that he created about the bill. "They were conceived three generations ago in a cultural and racial climate very different from our own, and very different from that to which we aspire. They are now, if anything, obsolete."
Evans said public officials who support continued prohibition efforts should explain how many more people need to be arrested, how much that will cost and where the money will come from.
"Absent any good answers to those questions, a productive discussion necessarily turns from whether to replace prohibition to how to replace it," he said.
Evans said states are not allowed to act on their own to create a system of taxation and regulation unless federal law allows it. However, states can repeal prohibition laws and leave enforcement up to federal -- not state -- officials.
"That would surely get the attention of Congress," said Evans.
Laws concerning the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana would not be changed. The crime is punishable of a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment up to two years, or both, and may result in the loss of an offender's driver's license.
The current bill was first filed in the Massachusetts House in 1981, following a citizen petition. It was slightly modified and reintroduced this year.