Pro-pot advocates say Baker, Walsh promote alcohol

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BOSTON – A day after some of the state’s top politicians formalized their opposition to a bid to legalize marijuana sales to adults, legalization supporters fired back with a campaign labeling Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as hypocrites who want people to “drink more alcohol.”

In a briefing for reporters outside the State House Friday, members of the Campaign to Regulate Alcohol like Marijuana – backers of a proposed ballot question that would legalize retail sales of marijuana to adults 21 and older – presented a poster of Walsh and Baker sharing a cartoon speech bubble with the words “Our health policy: Drink more alcohol!”

“Gov. Baker and Mayor Walsh want to make alcohol easier to get while driving the 842,000 people over 18 in Massachusetts who used marijuana last year to drug pushers who sell dangerous drugs like heroin and don’t ask for IDs,” said Will Luzier, manager of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

Baker and Walsh, with Speaker Robert DeLeo, the leader of the state House of Representatives, on Thursday announced the formation of the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts to oppose the proposed ballot measure. They argue against legalizing retail sales of the drug based on “concerns about the health risks to young people” and a claim that the “proposed law is written by and for the corporate interests that have profited from legalization across the country.”

“When it comes to an issue like the health and safety of kids, voters deserve better than absurd, disingenuous attacks from the marijuana industry,” Corey Welford, a spokesman for the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, said in a statement Friday in response to the pro-pot campaign.

“The marijuana industry is the only one that stands to make billions in profits from this new law, and they will do and say anything to distract from the real issue,” Welford said. “The fact is that legalizing marijuana will increase addiction and harm our kids. That is why this proposed law is good for corporate marijuana, and bad for Massachusetts families.”

Calling alcohol “deadly” and claiming marijuana to be “relatively benign,” Luzier cited Baker’s municipal finance reform legislation that would give more control over liquor license approvals to local authorities and his support in 2010 for repealing a sales tax on alcohol. The issue arose as a ballot measure and passed, rolling back a legislative move that had ended the sales tax exemption for alcohol.

A new page on the legalization campaign’s website lays out other actions and positions taken by Baker, a Republican, and Walsh, a Democrat, that the advocates say promote alcohol consumption and demonstrate “blatant hypocrisy,” including efforts by Walsh to extend the operating hours for bars in Boston.

Asked by a reporter if he believed it was appropriate to post and circulate images made to show Walsh, a recovering alcoholic, saying “Drink more alcohol,” Luzier said, “I know Mayor Walsh personally and his advocacy for the expansion of operating hours of alcohol establishments and the expansion of licenses in the city of Boston, I believe are in conflict with his position as a recovering alcoholic.”

Shortly after the press conference, Tim Buckley, a Baker spokesman, shot back on, referring to the legalization campaign’s image of Baker and Walsh as “tasteless photo shop jobs – pretty much what you’d expect from a few guys looking to get rich selling drug laced lollipops.”

Luzier said marijuana legalization supporters were preparing a “rigorous campaign and will get the message out that alcohol is a much more dangerous substance than marijuana and we should end marijuana prohibition.”

The campaign against the proposed ballot question argues that marijuana is more potent now and says the question’s passage would lead to increased use among young people, particularly with edible products such as chocolates, cakes and cannabis-laced candy that would appeal to children.

Written by Katie Lannan