Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley has not decided how she will vote on the November referendum on legalized recreational marijuana, but Wednesday, she pressed city officials to begin thinking about ways to equitably implement the measure, should it pass.
Pressley wants the council to hold a hearing to discuss strategies that would give historically disadvantaged people, including nonwhites, women, and low-income residents, priority in marijuana licensing. As she puts it, these are the same people who were disproportionately hurt by punitive jail sentences that criminalized the drug, so these people should be the first to make money from its legalization.
“We are finally addressing, culturally, socially, and through policy reform, the impacts of the ‘War on Drugs’,” Pressley said at the meeting. “Righting these wrongs can happen through collective will and intentional legislation.”
The council remains split on the ballot question. The City Council president, Michelle Wu, supports recreational marijuana legalization, as does Roxbury City Councilor Tito Jackson. Other city officials, like Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Councilor Frank Baker, who represents portions of Roxbury, the South End, and South Boston, oppose legalizing the drug.
Even with that opposition, Baker said he supports Pressley’s measure because he believes it is good, proactive governance.
“This is good work here. We need to make sure the discussion comes through this hall because this would be in our neighborhoods,” Baker said. “If it comes, and it’s all just made legal fast, we run the risk of being flooded in our neighborhoods.”
The hearing has not been scheduled but was sent to the council committee on Jobs, Wages, and Workforce development. According to recent poll released by WBUR, a majority of Bay State residents supported legalizing recreational marijuana.