Lies, damn lies and Massachusetts DAs

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Paul Danish/Sue France

When marijuana legalization opponents think they might lose at the polls, they try to keep legalization initiatives off the ballot.
Their tactics for doing this typically run the gamut from the silly to the slimy. Their challenge to the Massachusetts legalization initiative petition, which was due to be argued before the Massachusetts Supreme Court on Wednesday, June 8, is a brazen mash-up of both.

A number of Massachusetts district attorneys are trying to keep the initiative sponsored by Massachusetts’ Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol off the ballot on grounds that the petition language summarizing the content of the initiative, which was approved by the State Attorney General before the petition was circulated, is deliberately misleading. They claim it didn’t inform voters that the initiative would allow the sale of marijuana and marijuana-infused products with THC content higher than 2.5 percent — which they claim is the only acceptable definition of “natural” marijuana.

According to Boston attorney John Scheft, who is representing the DAs, the initiative is misleading because voters haven’t been informed that high concentrations of THC could be infused into food or beverages if it passes.

“These items bear no resemblance to the leafy substance that nostalgic adults think this law will legalize,” Scheft said in a statement. “Nature’s pot should only have a maximum of 2.5 percent tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which is the ingredient that gets people high.”

Scheft also claims that any marijuana plant that contains more than 2.5 percent THC should be termed hashish or tetrahydrocannabinol, instead of marijuana and the petition’s failure to embrace this distinction in its summary is misleading and a fatal flaw.

The 2.5 percent figure for “natural” marijuana apparently comes from a definition in Massachusetts criminal law that claims any “material” or “compound” that contains more than 2.5 percent THC should be called hashish or THC concentrate. Scheft is claiming that this should include marijuana plants with more than 2.5 percent THC in them.

The argument is just one more example of the sort of in-the-bone dishonesty and lying that has defined marijuana prohibition since its inception 70 years ago.

There isn’t anyone, including the folks in Scheft’s merry band of self-serving prosecutorial prohibitionists, who has ever called marijuana with more than 2.5 percent THC anything but marijuana.

I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that these DAs have charged tens of thousands of people caught with pot containing more than 2.5 percent THC with “marijuana” possession, not hashish possession. Because if they had, even a minimally competent defense attorney would have gotten the case tossed out of court.

A spokesman for the legalization campaign points out that the THC content of most marijuana flower hasn’t been as low as 2.5 percent since the 1970s and that a lot of today’s strains typically contain 17 to 28 percent THC.

This has been known for decades, if for no other reason than because legalization opponents have been howling about new, improved, high strength marijuana since the 1970s. So the initiative isn’t misleading anyone about the potency of today’s pot.

Moreover the initiative explicitly provides for the legalization and regulation of “marijuana products,” which includes everything from edibles to concentrates, and the summary language on the petition, which was approved by the state’s attorney general, speaks to the regulation of “marijuana products” in the first paragraph.

It should be clear by now that national anti-legalization organizations have decided that Massachusetts would be the place where they would mount a major effort to defeat a Colorado-style legalization initiative.

Their narrative so far involves a lot of lying about marijuana and the consequences of marijuana legalization in Colorado. No surprises there.

But the district attorneys’ attempt to get the petition thrown out takes anti-initiative lying to a whole new level. And it tells you much more about the content of their characters than the content of the initiative or the petition to put it on the ballot.

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