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Pro-marijuana group calls out Baker, Walsh

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.Steven Senne/Associated Press

Advocates of marijuana legalization are accusing Governor Charlie Baker and Mayor Martin J. Walsh of hypocrisy for supporting the expansion of alcohol sales while backing an effort to stop the legalization of marijuana.

A day after the two announced they are launching a political effort to kill a likely legalization ballot question, the campaign backing the pro-cannabis referendum will hold a Friday news conference. There, the group will assert it’s contradictory to support the expansion of one and not the other — because, it argues, alcohol is far more dangerous than marijuana.

For Baker and Walsh “to oppose the failed system of marijuana prohibition while backing easier access to alcohol is the height of hypocrisy,” said Jim Borghesani, communications director for the legalization ballot group.


He said the group, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts, wants to make the public aware of “the blatant dual standard in the actions” of Baker and Walsh.

Borghesani pointed to, among other actions, Walsh pressing to keep bars and restaurants open later, and for more liquor licenses for the city; and Baker pushing to let cities and towns other than Boston have more leeway to issue liquor licenses without going through the Legislature, and allowing retailers who sell alcohol to also serve alcohol in in-house restaurants.

Borghesani said, “Marijuana is less toxic, less addictive, and less likely to lead to reckless and dangerous behavior.”

At the planned 11 a.m. news conference at the State House, the advocates expect to show off a sign with a photo of Baker and Walsh with a speech bubble over their heads that says: “Our health policy: Drink more alcohol!”

The critique could anger supporters of Walsh, a recovering alcoholic who has spent years advocating for people struggling with addiction. During his time in the Legislature, the Democrat built a record of pressing for increased funding for substance abuse services and was often personally involved in helping people get into recovery.


Baker, a Republican, has couched his support for his liquor-related proposals as both bureaucracy-cutting and economic stimulus measures. And the most notable health policy proposal (and, eventually, law) from the governor was a comprehensive bill to fight the scourge of opioid abuse and overdoses in the state.

Baker, Walsh, and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo on Thursday formally launched an anti-legalization campaign that also includes a coalition of doctors, law enforcement officials, and addiction specialists. Theeffort will warn that approving the measure would increase marijuana use among youths.

The proposed referendum would legalize marijuana for those 21 and older, and allow retail sales beginning in January 2018.

Advocates expect to show off this sign at their planned press conference.Handout

Jim O’Sullivan of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos and subscribe to his weekday e-mail update on politics at bostonglobe.com/political