Massachusetts District Attorneys Launch Hail Mary to Stop Legalization. Will It Work?Gage PeakeJune 8, 2016
A group of Massachusetts district attorneys are leading a charge to block that state’s legalization initiative before it hits the November ballot. Opponents, represented by Boston attorney John Scheft, filed suit in Massachusetts Supreme Court, claiming the initiative is misleading in how it describes THC potency in a variety of products.
The case is set to be heard by the high court Wednesday morning in Boston.
According to Scheft, voters have not been informed that high concentrations of THC could be infused into food or beverages.
“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.”
Will Luzier, manager of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, rejected that argument. According to Luzier, legalization opponents have been using off-the-wall rhetoric to scare people. The initiative clearly states that marijuana products infused with THC — including topicals, foods, and liquids — will be legal and regulated.
“They are basing their argument on the [current] definition under criminal law,” Luzier told Leafly in an interview earlier today. The proposed legalization measure, he said, “can live alongside the criminal law definition without any problem.”
Legalization opponents are suggesting that anything above 2.5 percent THC needs to be termed hashish or tetrahydrocannabinol, instead of marijuana. In court documents, they say that the only appropriate definition for marijuana is a plant that has no more than 2.5 percent THC. That definition, however, pushes against both history and current fact. The THC content of most cannabis flower hasn’t been 2.5 percent since the 1970s. Since then, botanists have made advances in genetics and grow technique. In medical and adult-use states, THC content in cannabis flower commonly ranges from 17 to 28 percent.
Luzier added that the suit was filed extremely late in the initiative process. In court tomorrow morning, Scheft is expected to answer why his group filed so late, considering that they were notified months ago about the initiative.
“I am not sure that they have addressed why they filed so late,” Luzier said, “and that may be a fatal flaw in their strategy.”
“We are certainly not worried about the challenge to decertify the petition,” he added. “We do not think that is going to happen. The court may not take any other action because they have in the past deferred to the attorney general on these issues.”
The legalization campaign has filed a counter-claim that will also be heard by the court this week. Advocates believe the title that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey assigned to the initiative, “Legalization of Marijuana,” wasn’t an accurate depiction of what the initiative does. Luzier said his group has suggested a new title, “Taxation and Regulation of Adult Use of Marijuana.”
Arguments are scheduled for tomorrow, June 8, at 9 a.m. in Boston. Briefs for the cases can be found here and here. Check Leafly for an update following the court’s decision, expected later this week.