Getting the Marijuana Law Up and Running: It’s Not About the Money

On the first day that it’s legal to possess and grow marijuana in Massachusetts there are some happy faces outside the State House.

But inside the State House, seems it’s a different story.

For example, State Treasurer (and, notably, Question 4 opponent) Deborah Goldberg is troubled because, as she told Politico yesterday, the new law requires her to set up a Cannabis Control Commission to regulate the marijuana industry — and to do it quickly, but she has no idea where the start-up money is going to come from. Eventually, the costs will be paid for by marijuana sales tax revenues, but those are a year or more away. “Tough times moving forward,” she said.

(If you’re wondering why this funding issue wasn’t addressed in Question 4 itself, that’s because ballot questions are not allowed to include any appropriations of money.)

Goldberg is doubtful that that funds will be forthcoming from the state, citing the Governor’s recent mid-year budget cuts as evidence of our currently precarious fiscal situation. She’s also opposed to requesting that funds come from the state’s Rainy Day Fund (even though that’s where the start up costs –$15 million worth — to regulate the nascent gambling industry came from a few years back).

OK, let’s look elsewhere.  How about that $1 billion ( that’s billion with a “b”) economic development bill? Its passage last summer led to much enthusiastic gushing about the many ways it would connect residents to economic opportunities, develop the jobs of tomorrow, unlock economic development priorities, create opportunities for businesses in diverse industries, etc., etc. Surely a little of that money could get this newest industry up and running.  The funds could even be in the form of a loan to be paid back once the sales tax revenues start flowing.

It’s as though the opposition of some of our state leaders to legalizing marijuana in the first place may be giving way to a contrived fatalism that the problem of start-up costs makes implementing the law impossible at present. What happened to that can-do attitude we saw when $150 million appeared, rather magically, to seal the deal to bring General Electric to Boston?  (Oh, and by the way on that subject, the House today today advanced a bill to study the feasibility of a helipad near the new GE headquarters.)

There are lots of possible solutions to this relatively minor problem. Finding one just requires some political will.

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