Brookline — Senator Cynthia Creem, D-Newton, will listen to her constituents and support the legalization of marijuana, but she won’t be the lead sponsor of any bills on the subject.
“If it is a bill that comes before my committee, I may ultimately support that, but I have not been a lead sponsor,” said Creem.
While Creem said she voted ‘yes’ on a non-binding question on the Nov. 2 state election ballot in favor of “legislation that would allow the state to regulate the taxation, cultivation and sale of marijuana to adults,” she said she would want to know what revenue was going to be generated by the legalization of the plant and what system would be set up to control it.
“I voted on a concept, I think my constituents voted on a concept, and that concept would be that this would be something they would support. But we need to see what those controls are,” said Creem.
The ballot question won 10,431 ‘yes’ votes in Brookline alone. In Newton, the question won with 19,131 votes in favor, and in Wellesley, there were 3,334 ‘yes’ votes.
Creem, who served as chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee in the last legislative session, said if she were chair of the committee in the next session, she wouldn’t be the lead sponsor of a bill to legalize the sale of marijuana.
“I don’t know what committee I will chair, and that is reflective of what I do,” said Creem. “It would probably come before the Judiciary [Committee], because it’s a law. I wouldn’t be lead sponsor, but I would sponsor.”
Creem said a lead sponsor sets up the hearing and works with speakers. But as a committee chairperson she would also have to oversee the hearing—which could create conflict.
“How can you do that and hold a hearing, you can’t jump in front of the table and then sit in the back,” she said. “It’s not the right thing to be upholding a hearing and being a lead sponsor; sometimes I chair a hearing.”
But Creem also thinks the lack of support for the legalization of pot in a statewide poll administered by the State House News Service would keep any bill from moving forward.
“People didn’t support it, which brings a conflict between how the people in my district feel and people statewide feel,” said Creem. “It was opposed. It failed. And it failed in California. It seems to me, regardless of whether I support it or not, other legislators may feel differently.”
Bill Downing, director of Massachusetts Reform Cannabis Coalition (MassCann) said there were 18 public policy questions on ballots statewide — nine for legalization and nine for medicinal use — and all of them won enough support to pass.
“They all won,” said Downing. “That’s just this year, since 2000 we have had 63 and all of them have won. We all know how people feel about these issues, it’s about getting our lazy legislature to get up and do their jobs.”
MassCann gathered the requisite 1,200 signatures needed to place the question on the ballot in Creem’s senatorial district in this year’s election.
The same question or variations were on the ballot in several House districts, with about 7.5 percent of the voters in the state weighing in on the issue.
“One of the reasons Creem’s district was done, is because she is chair of judiciary and if marijuana legalization will go through the legislative process, it must go through the judiciary,” said Downing. “Most certainly when it’s appropriate for us to do so we will be pressing Creem. [We will be] in contact with them to remind them constituents feel very strongly about these issues.”
Downing said 2012 “is going to be a great year” when they re-file a bill on the topic. Downing said they would learn from California’s failure to legalize the use of the plant to skip “the messy bits” that kept it from getting passed into law.
“There will be a ballot committee formed for a statewide ballot initiative for 2012,” he said.
A bill filed in the last legislative session was modeled after Chapter 138 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the Alcohol Beverage Control Act.
As alcohol control laws allow consumers to brew their own beer or make their own wine and share it with their friends, the bill would have allowed those over 21 to cultivate cannabis for their personal use and to give cannabis to others over 21 years of age.
It would have also created the Cannabis Control Authority, analogous to the Alcoholic Beverage Commission, to oversee the issuance of cultivation licenses, processing licenses, trade licenses, retail licenses, import licenses, research licenses and farmer-processor-retailer licenses. It does not change the law on impaired driving.
The bill established license fees of varying amounts and excises taxes on cannabis sold at retail.
In 2008, 64 percent of voters were in favor of Question 2, an act to support the decriminalization of marijuana.
“Everything will have to be rewritten,” said Downing. “You have to start working now on things if you want it to get going.”
By Steve Annear/ staff writer
Wicked Local Brookline
Posted Nov 10, 2010
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Sen. still supports marijuana legalization, but won’t be in charge of the bill