An Adult in the Room: MA Senator Lewis on Marijuana

Looking closer at marijuana commercialization
Looking closer at marijuana commercialization.

Kudos to Senator Jason Lewis (MA-D) for being the level-headed, unflappable, well informed adult in the room, and for speaking to the facts and with honesty about what he saw and learned on a fact-finding trip to Colorado. While he hasn’t made public his decision on how he will vote on the 2016 ballot question that would commercialize marijuana for recreational use in Massachusetts, the Senator, unlike much of the media, is at least digging into the issue to properly understand it.

The show on which Senator Lewis appeared is a very popular, generally liberal, public radio talk show in Boston. Upon returning from a fact finding trip in Colorado, Senator Lewis was very clear on the possible downside consequences of a rising commercial/corporate marijuana industry.

The Boston Globe earlier in the week had covered none of the problems caused by marijuana in Colorado since legalization and commercialization. They only quoted CO state officials, who work very closely with the marijuana industry — which had outsized influence on regulation writing for their own marijuana commerce — who said they don’t see any real public health problems with marijuana.

(One additional point could have been made, in this respect, by the Senator. When pressed on the already existing health harms of legal and commercial alcohol and tobacco, the answer could include — marijuana harms have seemed lower and been kept less visible because without legal status, and without commercialization, advertising, enticement and promotion this drug’s use and exposure rates have been kept low. (Under 20 million marijuana users vs over 160 million for alcohol and 67 million for tobacco). Commercialization drives up use and broadens the base of health harms. Why actively repeat that market phenomenon with commercialization a psychoactive drug? A hallucinogen?)

This process is called: Industrial Regulatory Capture. Remember, Massachusetts is the state where W.R.Grace, a chemical manufacturer, professed to be handling its toxic waste “responsibly”. Only after 7 children developed leukemia in the 1980’s in one small neighborhood in Woburn, MA, near a WR Grace dump site, did tough new laws change industrial practices. (Book by Jonathan Harr 1996 and movie staring John Travolta 1999: “A Civil Action”). Congress passed a Superfund Act to clean up hazardous waste sites across the country at enormous cost. The Toxics Use Reduction Institute, created under The Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act (1989) was established to reduce or eliminate the manufacture and use of toxic chemicals in the industrial process at their source. It is astonishing that just a quarter century later we are considering creating businesses that not only impact air, water and land contamination, but also intentionally puts slow acting neurotoxins directly into the brains and bodies of our people “for recreational purposes” … And for personal profit.

The corporate marijuana propaganda machine, very reminiscent of the tobacco industry, would have us believe in the benign nature of their drug. However, the facts and data tell a different story.

Here’s Senator Jason Lewis’s interview, audio and transcript, on Boston’s WGBH 89.7 radio talk show:

“What Colorado’s Marijuana Market Could Mean For Massachusetts”