Pot proponents hit critics on ‘scare tactics’

Say officials are spreading falsehoods to defeat legalization measure

A LAWYER WHO helped draft the initiative to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana said critics of the referendum are using decades-old scare tactics to defeat the proposal and twisting proponents’ words to convince voters there’s a heartless pot industry that only wants to cash in at the expense of kids.

“This whole idea that there’s some big tobacco-type industry out there that just wants to set bad policy is just false,” said Boston attorney Adam Fine, who helped draft the marijuana initiative petition. “In the industry, there is no opposition to anything that is in the best interest of public health and public safety.”

At a press conference in front of the State House Thursday morning, elected officials, led by Attorney General Maura Healey, and medical association officials opposed to Question 4, painted a dire picture of what would happen if voters say yes. Healey insisted the initiative has no limits as to how potent legal marijuana can be, a flaw in the law she says will lead to overdoses and health complications for unsuspecting users and, especially, children.

To prove her point, Healey cited an interview that Fine gave to WCVB on Wednesday in which he was asked about potency limits if the measure did pass. Healey claimed Fine said proponents would fight any kind of regulation that diluted the potency of retail pot, which she said showed they are more concerned with the bottom line than public safety.

“What’s proposed [in the ballot question] has no potency limits,” Healey said. “This is an industry that will fight efforts at regulation at every step of the way. In a television interview, a representative of the marijuana industry admitted they would oppose limits on potency on edibles in the state. That is a huge problem and quite remarkable in my view.”

But Healey was not accurate in her portrayal of the interview. In the report, Fine said “there will be potency limits under this initiative,” pointing to the creation of a Cannabis Control Commission that will set regulations for the sale and use of legal marijuana, including how strong a product can be. He was asked in the interview why he thinks there might be opposition to limits, which he said was a hypothetical question to which he gave a hypothetical answer.

“If there’s too many potency limits in place, then the black market will continue to exist,” he told Channel 5 reporter Janet Wu.

Fine, who represents between 10 and 20 medical marijuana operators and applicants, said critics are twisting his words to suggest he or the industry would fight regulations to ensure the products – and children – are safe.

“I was very, very clear the industry is not opposed to any limits,” Fine said. “That [Healey’s assertion] is the exact opposite of what I said. We drafted this law to give complete authority to the Cannabis Control Commission to do their job. It’s a smart initiative that was designed with public safety in mind.”

Joining Healey in denouncing the referendum out of what they say is concern for children were a number of health professionals, including Dr. James Gessner, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society. Gessner said that marijuana is an addictive drug that can lead kids into harder drugs and exacerbate the opioid crisis.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

“Question 4 offers voters a clear choice between public health and safety and the commercialization of a substance that can cause harm,” he said. “We believe that preventing addiction, safeguarding public health and safety, and keeping harmful substances away from children and adolescents are infinitely more important than the sale of a drug for recreational purposes, especially at a time when we face an opioid epidemic that is already destroying too many lives.”

Jim Borghesani said the continued dissemination of what he says is false information belies opponents arguments. He said the control commission is set up just to ensure the products don’t cause ill effects and don’t fall into the hands of kids.

“The CCC has absolute authority over all products,” he said. “This is yet another scare tactic by our opponents.”