Council President, Mayor See Through Different Lenses On Pot Question

By Seth Daniel

Council President Michelle Wu has admittedly never tried marijuana.

And, while at Harvard University, she recalls she and her roommates being very disturbed by some of the other students who filled the hallways with marijuana smoke from time to time.

That said, she has come out in favor of the ballot question that would legalize recreational marijuana use for adults – a ballot question that will be considered statewide this coming November as Question 4.

“I have never tried marijuana and I don’t want to try marijuana,” she said. “My parents were very strict. The first time I had any contact with marijuana was when I left home to go to college at Harvard. My roommates and I during our sophomore year experienced other students down the hall who filled the hall with pot smoke and odor from time to time. It upset us…Looking back on that experience, it seems completely unjust that Harvard kids can smoke pot and go on to experience every opportunity in the world while black and Latino residents have disproportionate penalties…for it. It goes to what type of system we are creating and differences in treatments and outcomes.”

She said people of color are three times more likely to be penalized for marijuana use.

“If we say you can do it behind closed doors, then we’re not being honest as a society,” she said. “I will be voting ‘yes.’ There is a lot to work out.”

That opinion is completely different than that of Mayor Martin Walsh and other state leaders, such as House Speaker Bob DeLeo.

In July, Walsh said he would not vote for the question, as he said it doesn’t do anything to address children and young people who will be exposed to this newly-legal drug.

“I’ve been a member of the recovery community for many years,” he said. “I get calls from parents, terrified of what’s happening to their teenage child who’s using marijuana. That’s who I’m thinking about when I look at this question. The data tells a clear story. Teens who use pot are more likely to run into problems—from bad grades, to mental illness, to hard drugs and fatal addictions. Behind that data, I’ve seen the suffering. I’ve seen bright, happy kids taken down by pot in their teenage years.  And I’ve seen families crushed by sadness when it happens. This question does absolutely nothing to address that risk. In fact, it goes out of its way to make it worse—with edibles, with home-based growing, and with little chance for community control.”

He added that he believes urban neighborhoods and kids in those neighborhoods will be targeted.

“I’m not going to stand by as a billion-dollar commercial marijuana industry walks into our communities and markets to our young people,” he added. “We’ve seen what that looks like before. We’ve seen big tobacco targeting kids and teens. We know that big marijuana does the same.”

Wu said there isn’t any rift between herself an the mayor, but that she and fellow Councilor Tito Jackson – who also expressed his support for Question 4 last week – see the issue through different lenses.

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