High Times indeed

As the Massachusetts Legislature prepares to amend the voter-approved pot law, it’s a good time to take stock of where we are and where we’re headed.

Voters approved the recreational sale of marijuana back in November by a 54-46 margin, despite claims by most of the state’s top pols that pot is a gateway drug that will lead to more opioid addictions and deaths.

“There are all sorts of unintended consequences heading down this road [of legalization] and most of them fall on young people,” said Gov. Charlie Baker nearly a year ago. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh warned that the law would create a billion-dollar industry that would target vulnerable people in city neighborhoods. House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he’d feel like a hypocrite sponsoring drug treatment legislation while backing the legalization of recreational marijuana. Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins didn’t mince words. “The world as we see it is going to hell in a handbasket,” he said.

After voters approved the marijuana referendum, the dire warnings subsided but the opposition didn’t disappear. The new theme on Beacon Hill is that the voter-approved law is unworkable. The tax rate — 3.75 percent plus the 6.25 percent existing sales tax — is too low. The regulatory regime vests too much control in Treasurer Deborah Goldberg’s office. And it is too difficult for cities and towns to ban pot facilities.

So the week after Christmas, during sparsely attended informal sessions, lawmakers delayed the opening date for recreational marijuana stores by six months, to July 2018. They also set about rewriting the pot legislation approved by voters. The rewrite is due to make its debut on Wednesday and be voted on by the full House on Thursday. Details have been kept under wraps so far.

Once a legislative game plan for recreational pot sales is in place (the Senate and Baker must also sign off), the regulatory regime will begin its work and, if all goes as planned, Massachusetts residents will be able to legally purchase pot in mid-2018.

So far, most news outlets have covered the legalization of recreational pot sales as a political story, which is understandable. But soon that will change. As pot goes public, the story will shift into the social, business, medical, and legal realms. Few local media outlets are planning that far ahead. The Boston Globe, for example, recently restructured its beat system to focus more on areas of interest rather than institutions. Pot is listed as an area of interest of one reporter. (Correction: The initial version of this story said pot wasn’t listed as an area of interest.)

One sign of the changing times is the sale of High Times, the magazine that helped lead the push for marijuana legalization in the United States. A Los Angeles investment group, with Bob Marley’s son as one of the investors, purchased the magazine and has plans to improve its editorial content. Ricardo Baca, the first marijuana editor at the Denver Post, writes in the Columbia Journalism Review that High Times has struggled over the last decade as pot has transitioned from Public Enemy No. 1 to a recreational substance treated like beer.

“When you think about it, the world needs that informed High Times voice now more than ever. Just think about our odd, difficult-to-digest legalization climate,” Baca writes. “Marijuana is federally illegal in America, yet more and more states are choosing to legalize it medically and even recreationally — and soon Canada will join Uruguay in legalizing adult-use weed nationally. The US federal government also considers cannabis a Schedule I substance alongside the most dangerous drugs in the world, yet it also acknowledges that marijuana is a non-lethal, non-toxic substance in an era when another recreationally legal drug is killing 90,000 Americans annually.”

–BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

A city-state deal may be in the works that would green-light the proposed 775-tower — shadows and all — at Boston’s Winthrop Square, while also providing funding for the maintenance of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. (Boston Globe)

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation slams the millionaire’s tax that lawmakers are poised to advance to the ballot, saying it will drive high-earners out of the state. (Boston Globe)

The Globe’s Evan Horowitz says the state’s bond rating downgrade is a warning sign of potential danger ahead.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A careless smoker in Lawrence who flicked a cigarette near a triple-decker caused that building and two others to go up in flames, displacing 64 people. No charges will be filed against the smoker. (Eagle-Tribune)

Brockton firefighters have agreed to a new contract that includes drug testing based on a “reasonable suspicion” of use that city officials say is not intended to be punitive but rather to help employees dealing with drug addiction. (The Enterprise)

A study indicates the DCU Center in Worcester needs $30 million in upgrades over the next five years. (Telegram & Gazette)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Attorney General Jeff Sessions quietly sent a letter to Congress asking lawmakers to rescind federal protections for states that pass medical marijuana laws and reinstate his authority to prosecute growers and dispensaries. (Washington Post)

A longtime friend of President Trump says the embattled president is considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller, a claim the White House later denied. (New York Times)

An Illinois congressman has filed the Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement (COVFEFE, get it?) Act that would expand the presidential records law to include social media. (U.S. News & World Report)

Another Appeals Court has refused to reinstate Trump’s travel ban, which the Department of Justice has already brought to the Supreme Court. (New York Times)

This first full White House cabinet meeting with secretaries lavishing praise on Trump like they were contestants on The Apprentice has to be seen to be appreciated. (CNN)

Joan Vennochi says the complaints about a New York production of Julius Caesar that features a Trump-figure in the lead role are much ado about not much. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Republican state Rep. Geoff Diehl, who is edging toward declaring a 2018 run against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, is drawing a “tracker” from a liberal super PAC who has been videotaping him at appearances. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Waltham-based Alkermes is lobbying state houses around the country, seeking to write support for Vivitrol, its opioid/alcohol addiction drug, into state law. (NPR)

The rise of two General Electric executives with health care background in the wake of the announced departure of CEO Jeff Immelt suggests a ramped up focus on a sector that runs deep in the company’s new hometown.

A Globe editorial urges the FCC to stop the next wave of unwanted robocalls — ringless voice mail delivered directly to your phone.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren applauds a new rule against conflicts of interest by financial advisers. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Robert T. Lutts, one of the trustees of Salem State University, defends the selection of former state representative John Keenan as president. Lutts said Keenan is not just a politician, but a public servant with extraordinary leadership talent. (Salem News)

Town meeting members in Cheshire vote down a regional school budget that called for the closing of the town’s elementary school. (Berkshire Eagle)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Todd Brown, executive director of the Massachusetts Independent Pharmacists Association, reveals what your pharmacist can’t tell you about the availability of cheaper drugs. (CommonWealth)

TRANSPORTATION

A 2017 story that could have been 1970: Responding to East Boston constituents’ complaints, area pols shake their fists at Logan Airport over noise from planes but say much of what happens there is out of their control. (Boston Herald)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Opponents of the stalled Cape Wind project continue to battle, pushing federal regulators to rescind the Nantucket Sound leases even though officials have no intention to terminate the agreement. (Cape Cod Times)

In an effort to reduce litter from so-called “nips,” a hearing will be held at the State House today on a bill filed by state Rep. Randy Hunt of Sandwich to slap a 5-cent deposit on the miniature plastic booze bottles. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A former Quincy police lieutenant who was once the city’s highest paid employee was found guilty by a federal jury of fraud for collecting money for his regular shift while working paid details. (Patriot Ledger)

Attorneys for Michelle Carter, the young woman facing manslaughter charges for prodding her boyfriend via texts to commit suicide, claim the then-teenager was “involuntarily intoxicated” from a combination of drugs she was taking for depression. (Standard-Times)

Evidence collected at the time of the 1990 Gardner Museum art heist that might offer DNA clues to the identity of the perpetrators is missing. (Boston Globe)