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Medical Marijuana Lobbyist Forms Group Opposing Legalization in Massachusetts

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A lobbyist for Boston’s only medical cannabis dispensary has formed a campaign committee to oppose broader marijuana legalization.

According to public records filed with the state Office of Campaign & Political Finance on Wednesday, the purpose of the new group, Safe Cannabis Massachusetts, is “opposition to the ballot initiative to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol”that is expected to be voted on this November.

The one-page document is signed by Daniel Delaney, a political consultant who represents Patriot Care, the operator of what is likely to be the only place to legally buy marijuana in Boston for the foreseeable future unless the state’s voters approve the broader legalization measure.

Safe Cannabis Massachusetts

In order to get a dispensary license from the state, would-be operators in the current application round need to have a letter of support (or non-opposition) issued by municipal officials from the city or town they wish to do business in. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is a strong opponent of marijuana law reform, and is unlikely to allow any such letters to be issued on behalf of applicants in his city.

Patriot Care won its license to operate during the state’s first application round, when no such local letters were required. During a subsequent contentious effort to earn a use permit from the zoning board, the company pledged that it would never switch to selling marijuana for recreational use, even if it became legal to do so in Massachusetts. The permit was later approved.

Patriot Care itself is a subsidiary of Columbia Care, which operates medical cannabis facilities in Arizona, Illinois, Washington, D.C. and other markets. This month it opened New York City’s first medical marijuana dispensary in Union Square.

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Delaney, who is a former official with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, did not respond to Marijuana.com’s request for an interview about why he is opposing the legalization measure, though he told Boston.com that, “I don’t necessarily have a problem with [recreational legalization]. I don’t like this model.” He called the formation of the campaign committee “separate” from his representation of Patriot Care and other medical cannabis companies.

But officials with the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is in the process of qualifying the legalization measure for November’s ballot, don’t buy it. “This is just a blatant attempt by Patriot to maintain whatever profits they can make for however long they can,” said campaign spokesman Jim Borghesani, according to Boston.com.

Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which has organized successful efforts to pass legalization initiatives in several states and is overseeing the Massachusetts campaign, agreed. “It’s kind of ironic that Patriot Care is fighting freedom in Massachusetts,” he told Marijuana.com in an email. “Perhaps they should change their name to Red Coat Care.”

Delaney’s new organization is currently reporting no donations and zero funds on hand. The next filing deadline isn’t until September, so it won’t necessarily be publicly known who is funding the opposition committee until much closer to Election Day.

Other medical cannabis industry players in Massachusetts have made contributions in support of the broader legalization effort.

Marijuana law reformers whose work has led to the emergence of legal markets have not taken kindly to what they see as profiteering by greedy industry types.

Many longtime activists, for example, opposed last year’s legalization initiative in Ohio because it proposed an oligopolistic model for commercial cannabis cultivation controlled by ten corporations owned by the very investors who funded the ballot initiative campaign.

And last March, Rob Kampia, the Marijuana Policy Project’s executive director, threatened Arizona medical cannabis dispensary operator Gina Berman with “a series of actions to harm your business” after she broke off from MPP’s legalization effort in the state and launched a competing measure that would not allow people to grow their own marijuana at home. “I’m already budgeting $ 10,000 (as of Friday) to pay people for 1,000 hours of time to distribute literature outside of your front door, and the literature will not portray you in a kind way,” he wrote. “We will not target any other dispensaries; we will only target you.”

The tactics in that case apparently worked; Berman is again working with MPP to pass its legalization measure this November.

It is unclear how movement forces will react if it is confirmed that Patriot Care or other medical cannabis industry interests are funding Delaney’s new committee in Massachusetts, but local activist Shaleen Title, who co-drafted the pending legalization measure, predicted it wouldn’t work out well for the companies’ profits.

“Marijuana regulation campaigns have been standing up to greedy corporate interests for decades and winning. It doesn’t make a big difference if the prohibitionist happens to be in the medical marijuana business,” she told Marijuana.com in an interview.

“Voters are smart and informed on marijuana issues and they will see right through you if you’re using the issue to grasp for profits,” she said of the experience in Ohio. “I’d caution anyone thinking about doing so to look what happened to ResponsibleOhio and ultimately what happened to the reputations of the folks involved. If you’re worried about your bottom line, trying to fool voters on marijuana is a bad move.”

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