Marijuana Legalization Question Criticized by Cape Cod Business Community and Lawmakers

CCB MEDIA PHOTO: Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito (R) speaks at a forum in Hyannis on Question 4, which would legalize recreational marijuana

CCB MEDIA PHOTO: Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito (R) speaks at a forum in Hyannis on Question 4, which would legalize recreational marijuana

HYANNIS – Lt. Governor Karyn Polito said Question 4 on the November ballot that would legalize recreational marijuana was a “bad deal” for Massachusetts, during a forum in Hyannis Tuesday.

The Republican headlined the event hosted by the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.

She said legalizing marijuana wasn’t the type of economic development she and Gov. Charlie Baker supported during their campaign, and believes the quality of life in Massachusetts would suffer if the question passes.

She was joined in her opposition to the ballot initiative by several members of the Cape’s legislative delegation, Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe, and members of the chamber.

First Barnstable State Representative Tim Whelan (R), a former state trooper, used some of the strongest language in opposing the bill, saying people will die if the measure is approved.

Polito warned that the potency of products containing marijuana like soft drinks, cookies and brownies would have much higher THC levels that a typical marijuana cigarette.

“These are products that I frankly think are aimed toward the younger population, kids and younger adults and those of that age frame,” said Polito.

She pointed to states with legal recreational marijuana like Colorado that now have more marijuana retailers than Starbucks and McDonald’s combined.

Sandwich State Representative Randy Hunt (R) warned about security issues if the question passes, noting retailers would have to be an all-cash business.

Because recreational marijuana is illegal on the federal level, local banks won’t accept money from the operations out of fear they’ll be violating federal laws.

Republican Plymouth-Barnstable State Senator Vinny deMacedo said automobile fatalities doubled in one year after Washington state legalized recreational marijuana.

He also said the state would likely lose money because the 3.75% tax proposed under the ballot question won’t cover the new state costs associated with regulating the industry.

A couple of supporters of Question 4 spoke during the question and answer session, claiming data presented by the panelists was incorrect.

Richard Elrick said the marijuana allowed under the question would be less toxic than marijuana currently purchased on the street.

He also disputed suggestions that more people would die and cases of impaired motor vehicle operation would increase if recreational marijuana is legalized in Massachusetts.

Olive Chase, owner of the Casual Gourmet Catering Company and chamber board president, expressed concern about how she would police the use of marijuana among her employees if use of the drug is legal.

Chase said she already spends considerable time and resources training workers in how to serve alcohol to customers.

Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross said the question was written in a way that favors the marijuana industry and backed Massachusetts into a corner.

She also said the taxing system would be “woefully inadequate” to cover the new costs associated with legalized marijuana.

By MATT PITTA, CapeCod.com News Director

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