Massachusetts lawmakers need to decriminalize all medicine, increase soda tax


A invoice to legalize medicine throughout the board and one other to tax sugary drinks by as much as 24 cents on a can of soda stand out among the many hundreds filed by lawmakers as they kick off a brand new session beneath the pandemic.

All medicine can be decriminalized in a invoice filed Friday by Reps. Mike Connolly, D-Cambridge, and Liz Miranda, D-Boston, and Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro. Punitive punishment — like jail time — for possession of managed substances can be abolished and the changed with a $50 civil tremendous.

“It speaks on to addressing the colossal failure that the Warfare on Medication has been and the terribly disproportionate impression these insurance policies have had on folks of shade right here in Massachusetts and across the nation,” Connolly mentioned.

The state invoice “units the gold normal for equitably legalizing these crops and ending the putrid, racist mess that’s the battle on medicine,” mentioned James Davis of Bay Staters for Pure Drugs, which is backing the invoice.

Former hashish regulator Shaleen Title mentioned it’s time to cease performing like we will “arrest and incarcerate our manner out” of America’s drug drawback. The invoice additionally lays out a screening course of to get assist to folks fighting medicine.

The group was the driving drive behind the latest native decriminalization efforts in Somerville and Cambridge. Northampton is anticipated to vote on an analogous decision in mid-March, and inroads are being made in Boston and Pittsfield as properly, the group’s organizer mentioned.

A complementary invoice filed by Connolly would create a 21-member taskforce to check the implications of legalizing magic mushrooms and different psychedelic crops. Proponents say the crops are efficient in treating PTSD, despair and different psychological diseases.

Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Director Mark Leahy mentioned police teams would demand “cautious examine” of the proposal, however famous “something that’s of worth to folks with respectable diseases is unquestionably worthy of higher scrutiny and examine.”

The initiative has its detractors, too. Beacon Hill Institute President David Tuerck mentioned it’s “a nasty concept” to remove penalties for drug abuse with “society in such a precarious state,” amid the pandemic.

Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, filed a invoice that might increase a tax on soda and different sugary drinks, that are presently exempt — one thing retailers and watchdogs are already pushing again on.

Drinks with 7.5 to 29 grams of sugar can be taxed 1 cent per ounce. Drinks with extra 30 grams of sugar or extra can be taxed 2 cents per ounce, or 24 cents for a can of soda. There can be no tax on drinks with fewer than 7.5 grams of sugar.

“It’s very costly and it’ll actually increase the price of a soda via the roof,” mentioned Jon Hurst of the Massachusetts Retailers Affiliation.

Tuerck known as the invoice “an extra intrusion of the nanny state.”

Cash raised from the tax would go to a brand new public well being fund.

The sugary drinks invoice joins one other revenue-raising invoice that might practically double the tax price on so-called “unearned earnings” reminiscent of capital positive factors and dividends.

Legislators are additionally taking goal at main points just like the pandemic with scores of payments being filed. “COVID” seems in 202 payments filed as of Friday night time. One, filed by Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, would drive the state to create a greater monitoring system for at-home private care attendants.

The phrase “marijuana” seems in 90 payments — a number of filed by Cyr. One would permit municipalities to authorize on-site consumption via a poll initiative. One other, sponsored by Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Dedham, would set up an “open container regulation” for pot to assist police implement legal guidelines in opposition to driving whereas smoking weed.

The Legislature can also be poised to tackle sports activities betting as soon as once more this session, with lawmakers submitting a complete of 15 payments to permit wagering on sports activities and fantasy sports activities. Gov. Charlie Baker’s $45.6 billion funds, as proposed, depends partially on $35 million in income from sports activities betting.

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