BOSTON — Massachusetts’ top law enforcement official went on the offensive Thursday against the legalization of recreational Massachusetts marijuana, arguing that the marijuana industry would resist curbs on the potency of its products and “always put profits ahead of people.”
Question 4 on Tuesday’s ballot would legalize possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older and allow for retail sales of the drug, including in the form of edibles such as cookies or candy.
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Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, is among several high-profile elected officials opposed to the ballot initiative, a list that also includes Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston’s Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh.
“Question 4 isn’t just about legalization — it’s about commercialization,” said Healey, who was joined by health care professionals who oppose the measure at a Beacon Hill news conference.
The measure’s language includes no specific limits on the potency of THC, the pyschoactive chemical in marijuana, for products sold in the state. Critics say today’s marijuana is generally at least six times more potent than it was in the 1970s.
“Maura Healey’s concern has no basis in fact and is yet another scare tactic to stop voters from putting the criminals who control the (marijuana) market today out of business,” said Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for the group Yes on 4.
Marijuana companies have already signaled their intent to fight any restrictions, Healey said.
“Potency limits might actually be better for people, but they are bad for profits, they’re bad for the bottom line and they’re bad for a billion-dollar industry that will always put profits ahead of people,” the attorney general said.
If approved, the ballot measure would create a Cannabis Control Commission to regulate recreational marijuana in Massachusetts. Backers say the commission would have “absolute authority” over edibles and other products sold in the state, including the power to impose limits on potency.
In Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational pot, opponents this year considered asking voters to cap potency of THC at no more than 16 percent before deciding they lacked the financial resources to pursue the effort. Industry officials said less than 20 percent of pot products currently sold in that state would be compliant with such a limit.
Marijuana legalization questions also appear Tuesday on the ballots in Maine, Arizona, California and Nevada. Passage in Massachusetts or Maine would mark the first approvals for legal pot in an East Coast state. In addition to Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska allow recreational marijuana.