Marty Walsh’s Fixation on Opposing Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization: Unsupported by Science or Sound Social Policy

As I write this post, I’m feeling a combination of optimism and disbelief. Optimism that Massachusetts Senate President Stanley Rosenberg has indicated he may support an approach to legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts. On the other hand, stunned disbelief that other Massachusetts political leaders, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, refuse to support this sane and balanced measure. Yet while figures such as governor Charlie Baker have indicated they don’t approve of pot legalization, none of them have indicated that they will openly, actively lead the charge against such efforts, either.

Enter Boston mayor Marty Walsh, who this past week said he’d be willing to be an open, public spokesperson against legalization efforts in Massachusetts if asked. Those legalization efforts are anticipated to take the form of a binding ballot question in the November 2016 (presidential) election, which would legalize cannabis in Massachusetts. This follows overwhelming voter ballot approval in 2008 to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of pot for personal, recreational use, and corresponding overwhelming voter ballot approval of medical marijuana in 2012. Thanks to a first-ever – and thus botched – state attempt to develop a sane and orderly license application process for medical marijuana dispensaries – we still don’t have licensed clinics and dispensaries operating here yet. Hopefully, that process will soon be rectified.

In my view as a Boston Massachusetts drug charges lawyer, I’m stunned that Walsh would take such a scientifically and socially indefensible position. Walsh – to his considerable personal credit – is a recovering alcoholic. No respectable individual, myself included, would take that accomplishment away from him. But he’s allowed his understandable antipathy and anxiety toward alcohol – an extremely dangerous drug, which cannot scientifically be compared on any equal level with marijuana – to blind him to documented medical and social realities here. Walsh’s life – along with hundreds of thousands of others – was almost destroyed by alcohol. That’s because alcohol is extremely, powerfully addictive. It is pernicious, destructive, and if you can find a person who has not seen first-hand proof of this in their friends and/or family, I’d find that very interesting. (And if you can’t find anyone whose life has been destroyed by alcohol, just visit any homeless shelter or AA meeting.)

In extreme contrast, cannabis (pot,) is not ANYWHERE NEAR as dangerous as alcohol, and is NON-ADDICTIVE. I capitalized those words for a reason: Because it’s true:

• Cannabis is non-toxic; people cannot ‘overdose’ on it. Alcohol is toxic – hence the term, “intoxication” to describe being drunk. Overdosing can easily kill, or blind the user. Ever heard of college fraternity deaths due to alcohol overuse? Ever hear the term “blind drunk”? Overdosing on alcohol can kill the optic nerve.

• Cannabis is non-addictive. It’s enjoyable to use, but deriving pleasure or enjoyment from a substance, and being addicted to it – are completely and totally different. Alcohol is extremely addictive. Ever see someone in the throes of alcohol withdrawal (delirium tremens, or “DT’s”?)

• Because possession of more than an ounce of pot remains a criminal offense under Massachusetts drug laws, that means that tens of MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars are spent every year arresting and prosecuting completely non-violent citizens who want to do nothing more than relax at home with a relatively harmless substance FAR LESS dangerous than alcohol.

I’ll discuss why Massachusetts marijuana legalization should pass, and overwhelmingly, in Part Two of this post, in a few days. Look for it; this is an important issue. You may not be hearing a lot about it now, but you will be a year from now.