Yesterday in Boston, TV station WGBH assembled a panel to conduct an in-depth discussion about marijuana legalization, specifically, the ballot question Massachusetts voters will answer this coming November. The good people of the Commonwealth will have the chance to determine whether or not marijuana should be available for recreational use and subsequently regulated like alcohol.
According to BallotPedia:
Question 4 would legalize and create a commission to regulate marijuana in Massachusetts. Currently, marijuana is only permitted for medicinal purposes. Under the new law, Individuals at least 21 years old would be able to use it, grow it, and possess it. The measure stipulates that individuals could possess under ten ounces of marijuana inside their homes and under one ounce in public. They could also grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes.
The measure would create a regulatory structure called the Cannabis Control Commission. This body would oversee marijuana legalization and issue licenses to firms that seek to sell marijuana products.
Under the measure, retail marijuana would be subject to the state sales tax with an additional 3.75 percent excise tax. If it chooses, a local municipality could add another 2 percent tax. Revenue from excise taxes, license application fees, and fines for minor violations of this law would be placed in a Marijuana Regulation Fund, which would help to pay for administrative costs of the new law.
If approved, marijuana legalization would take effect on December 15, 2016.
First reported by Russ from WeedNews.co, the WGBH forum, called “The Citizen’s Choice: Legalizing Recreational Marijuana,” featured prominent speakers from both sides of the argument who were there to create a healthy dialogue about a tremendously important issue. However, one panelist decided to take things up a notch with a live demonstration.
Kevin Sabet, the co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana and a staunch supporter of continued prohibition, really wanted to hit home with his ‘what about the kids’ talking points by performing a brief show and tell. Sabet, who has held positions on three separate Presidential administrations, proceeded to pull two rather large, clear plastic bags out of his suit jacket pocket. He told the attending audience and fellow panel members that one bag contained regular candy, while the other held something far more dangerous inside — one ounce of THC-infused edibles. He tasked the audience with deciphering which bag held the laced candies before implying that they wouldn’t be able to, and children couldn’t either. Sabet seems to ignore the fact that edibles purchased from lawfully-operated shops wouldn’t be sending home their patients with unlabeled, non-descript packaging. Sabet’s incessant assertions that parents cannot prevent their children from ingesting marijuana edibles is absurd, considering millions of parents successfully keep their young children out of their liquor cabinet, gun closet, and driver’s seat; all potentially dangerous things to a child that are present in many, if not most, homes around America.
The other panelists seemed taken aback by the impromptu display, especially considering the biggest proponent of harsh marijuana laws in the room was claiming to have one ounce of a Schedule 1 narcotic. According to a report from Dr. Keith Saunders of Boston Pot Report, sometime in the aftermath of the demonstration, Sabet lost track of his (half) precious cargo. Saunders witnessed Sabet frantically searching for the bags before claiming, “Someone stole the edibles.”
After warning the nation for years about the dangers of marijuana products being left out for curious children, Sabet had suddenly found himself in a heaping pile of his own potent medicine.
After scouring the internet for clues, we finally tracked down the location of the candy in question. An anonymous forum attendee snatched the newly-orphaned bags of candy from the table Sabet left them on and promptly turned them over to someone who could do some good with the evidence, Dr. Saunders.
When Sabet brought his (alleged) bag of marijuana edibles out into public view for the world to see, he made a critical error in judgment. Whether or not the candy in the bag was actually infused with cannabis matters very little, because Sabet broke the law regardless.
We caught up with Dr. Keith Saunders while he was bringing the now-infamous gummy bears to a testing facility in Massachusetts for a final determination on the gummy bears’ content. Luckily for us, Dr. Saunders also happened to be in the car with the WGBH panelist sitting directly next to Sabet during his charade, Madeline Martinez. Martinez has been a longtime advocate for marijuana through her work with NORML Oregon and opened the United States’ first cannabis cafe in 2009.
Marijuana.com: What did you think of Kevin Sabet’s presentation yesterday?
Madeline Martinez: I was a bit overwhelmed by his presentation, quite frankly. I’ve never been in a situation with someone that was so dogmatic, to the point where he was sweating profusely. I just didn’t expect that from him. I expected to be on a panel with a calm person and, he was anything but calm. All of a sudden, he brings out these bags and says, “one of these two is medicated. One is an edible, but you can’t tell the difference. This is what is being sold. This is why children are in danger.” He told us that was, in fact, true. He handed them to me. I was sitting there and he was just like, “here.” I just said, “whoa.”
Dr. Keith Saunders: In Massachusetts, that’s distribution.
Martinez: He put them in my hands. Obviously, I’m an Oregon resident, so I didn’t know what to do or expect. I was wondering if I was going to be handcuffed. It was very odd, I’ve never been in that situation.
Marijuana.com: Do you think Sabet intended to create this much of a scene?
Saunders: He was trying to pull off some showmanship. If he was telling the truth, one of those bags contains over an ounce of THC-laden product, which is above the decriminalization limit in Massachusetts. He either had to procure them elsewhere and bring them into Massachusetts in violation of federal law, or he had to procure them illegally in Massachusetts. While we do have legal edibles for patients, he is not a Massachusetts resident to my knowledge. Either he did that, or he offered a counterfeit substance, which itself is a crime in Massachusetts. He committed a crime, one way or another. He thought he was being a smart ass and showing off, but in reality, he was committing a crime. He should be punished for what he wanted people to be strewn up for his entire career as the drug czar’s Mini Me.
Martinez: At the very least, his credibility is in question now.
Saunders: (Laughs) In question now?
Martinez: I know it has been in question, but yesterday was like a joke. He came off like a snake oil salesman standing there talking his game. It’s amazing to me; I was very stunned by it.
Marijuana.com: To give Sabet a taste of his own medicine, do you think this is the one time we should throw the book at a marijuana offender?
Saunders: No, I don’t think anybody should go to jail or be arrested for marijuana possession. I think what he did was irresponsible and not well thought out. He was arrogant in the way he flaunted the law like he was above it. In all of the years that I have spent advocating for marijuana law reform, and I have spent well over a decade of my life, the only time that I have made it a point to publicly display that I was possessing cannabis was to demonstrate to the voters of Massachusetts what the effect of their decriminalization law was. I committed civil disobedience and defied the decriminalization measure by possessing marijuana, though I actually had to ask the Boston Police officer to cite me. We are a very cannabis-friendly state and he came in here and made an ass of himself.
Martinez: He really did. I agree with Keith in that we would never prosecute him, but the idea that he would break the law using something that he stands up against was quite amazing.
Marijuana.com: What happened after Sabet’s demonstration, and where are the bags of candy now?
Saunders: The video is available from WGBH TV. After pulling the bags from his pocket and telling the crowd one contained THC, he put them down. After making another point about them, he handed both of the bags to Madeline Martinez. After he got them back from her, he sat them down on the table. Later, after the panel, an anonymous person provided those bags to me, and I have them in my possession. They are on their way to a testing lab in Massachusetts to be tested for THC. I am not going to hold them, I am turning over the entire sample. We do have video and camera evidence of what we have. They’re his bags, they’re the ones he showed on TV. I’m not going to hold them as evidence against him, as I don’t think he should be arrested for marijuana possession, but I do think he’s a stupid ass for doing it.
Marijuana.com: Would Sabet show the same mercy to someone in his shoes?
Saunders: My ethics are my ethics, his ethics are his. I don’t expect to hold him to the standards of my ethics. He can be whoever he wants to be in his life. The principle of it is important enough to me that I don’t want him to go to jail, even though he wouldn’t want the same for me.
Martinez: We want an end to prohibition and to stop people from going to jail for marijuana, shattering American lives.
Any person who knowingly or intentionally creates, distributes, dispenses or possesses with intent to distribute or dispense a counterfeit substance shall be punished by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than one year or by a fine of not less than two hundred and fifty nor more than two thousand and five hundred dollars, or both such fine and imprisonment.
Cover Image Courtesy of WGBH