Editor’s Note: The following is an op-ed submitted to Framingham Source. Source accepts op-eds and letters to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the record the City of Framingham is not required to do anything regarding the cannabis industry coming to Framingham, other than a host agreement the Mayor must make with anyone wanting to open a retail shop. The regulations have been thoroughly reviewed by experts in the field, including law enforcement, and the Department of Public Health.
A hand full of hard liners, uninformed and out of touch with the residents who voted for them, are taking it upon themselves to stop, delay, restrict or ban the potentially billion-dollar industry from coming to Framingham.
This Tuesday our newly elected City Council will take a vote to impose a moratorium until Dec 31, on all marijuana related businesses coming to Framingham.
This move is totally against what residents voted for, and gives time to the various boards, Planning, Zoning and Board of Health, along with the Police, Fire and School departments, to craft regulations over and above the State Regulations already in place.
Writing for the majority, some brief history.
A few months ago, I was asked by a sitting City Councilor, why I was so adamant about pot and what prompted that. My answer was more than 30 years ago I was busted and plead no contest to growing pot in my Seminole Ave apartment. My punishment was a fine and probation, as the amount and size of the plants was negligible, it was a misdemeanor. I remember the cops telling me if I didn’t agree with the laws, change them. That event shook me to the core and set me on a journey that has lasted 30 plus years. I knew then I had to act and set off to find a way. As fate would have it, a few other people around the State had suffered the same fate and were vocal about making marijuana and hemp legal again.
By the mid 90’s 500,000 people a year were being arrested and jailed for possession of marijuana, mostly people of color. Children were taken from homes, professionals lost their licensees, millions of dollars in assets were being taken in civil forfeiture with no one charged with a crime, National Guard troops in helicopters were utilized to detect marijuana growing. Even the State Police outfitted a chopper with a special camera built to find marijuana growing across the State at 145 miles an hour. No knock warrants and otherwise law-abiding people being targeted by the drug warriors were common.
After discovering Jack Herer’s book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, educating the public on the uses of medical marijuana and hemp took me from the first rally in Northampton MA, to Beacon Hill. Back then the subject was taboo and the authorities did their best to squash any attempt to even talk about this in public. Nancy Reagan’s, “just say no” and the DARE program were designed to scare the public into submission.
The Town of Ashland went so far as to block my access to Stone Park for a hemp rally. The ACLU and a Federal Judge stepped in to stop those who made up rules that prevented me from speaking in Ashland.
In 2000, a small core group of activists gathered in Somerville and decided it was time to ask the voters how they felt about decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, through a public policy question (PPQ). I gathered the required 200 signatures and a question was placed on the ballot in Framingham. It won by a landslide.
A few years later, I did another PPQ question, asking whether patients with certain diseases could use medical marijuana, that too passed overwhelmingly here in Framingham. A few years later, I collected signatures to put the question of whether we should tax and regulate marijuana like we do for alcohol to the voter and that too passed overwhelmingly. Three State wide ballot questions, similar to the PPQs that were asked in prior years all passed.
When medical marijuana was passed in 2013, the Town officials pressured the Planning Board to heavily restrict where dispensaries could go. This mean-spirited attempt by them was defeated by Town Meeting and 3 licenses were finally approved by the Board of Selectman. Two have not opened yet so those filling their scrips have to drive to Newton or Brookline.
Fast forward to today where just a few City Officials are trying to stop the retail, testing, manufacturing and agriculture industry from coming here. This after over 15,000 voters voted for it. Our democracy is based on a core Constitutionally protected right to vote and have our vote count, but that Constitutional right is not respected here in Framingham.
A small hand full of ill-informed, biased, hard liners in charge will do anything to deny the will of the voters. When the facts and undeniable truth are as clear as a summer day, the self-anointed city officials bring dark clouds of ignorance and intolerance to our economic development, denying resident tax payers the relief the cannabis industry could provide via much a needed new revenue stream.
If you believe, as I do, that we deserve the tax revenue, our commercial properties to be utilized, and not to limit the number testing facilities, manufacturing and agriculture; if you believe as I do, adult use of cannabis is our right as free individuals; if you believe as I do that the voice of the voter is the most important piece of our democracy, write to the Mayor (email@example.com) and your City Council rep and say in the subject line, No Moratorium Needed, as I have done everything humanly possible to have your voice heard and respected. It’s out of my hands now.