Marijuana lobbying reaches new high on Beacon Hill
BOSTON — When lawmakers proposed tough new regulations and higher taxes on recreational marijuana sales last year as part of a rewrite of the voter-approved pot law, the response from potential growers and sellers was swift.
A small army of lobbyists descended on Beacon Hill, many of them paid by out-of-state marijuana industry groups.
Those efforts appear to have paid off as the state House of Representatives backed off a higher tax levy and left many regulatory proposals out of the final bill.
“We would have had a lot more local restrictions, and certainly higher taxes, on recreational marijuana if the House version had survived,” said Jim Borghesani of the Marijuana Policy Project, a national group that spent more than $74,000 on lobbying state officials last year.
“That would have made it very difficult to get the industry off the ground,” he said.
With hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, it’s not surprising that the marijuana lobby is growing like weeds.
More than $1.1 million was spent lobbying on marijuana in 2017, according to public disclosures filed with Secretary of State William Galvin’s office. That’s more than three times the $250,000 spent by mostly medical marijuana-related lobbyists two years earlier.
Opponents of legal weed say they aren’t surprised by the increased spending by the pot lobby.
“We expected this because we’ve seen it in other states,” said Jody Hensley, a policy adviser for the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance, which opposed legalization. “The marijuana industry essentially wrote the law, and now they are heavily influencing policy to expand the supply and use of it.”
She argues that the rule-making process is also being driven by the pot industry, both at the state level and in communities.
“Every time political operatives of the cannabis industry try to influence negotiations on policies, they