SALEM — Congressman Seth Moulton lives in just the third city in the Bay State to play host to recreational marijuana sales.
How does he feel about pot sales starting in his hometown this Saturday?
“Salem is leading the way,” said Moulton in an interview on Friday. “We need other towns to follow suit so that we are not the only place where it’s accessible, but Salem has never been afraid to lead, especially under Mayor (Kim) Driscoll. She is setting the pace, and that’s the kind of leadership we need in Massachusetts and in our country right now.”
Moulton says allowing recreational marijuana sales makes sense.
“I think the demand that we see proves what I have said all along: People are using marijuana and they want to use it legally, and we should allow them to use it legally and safely with the proper regulation, rather than pretend by outlawing it, people are going to stop.”
There is the Catch-22 that Massachusetts has legalized the sale of recreational marijuana, but the federal government continues to categorize marijuana as a Schedule I drug, one that has a high potential for abuse and dependence.
Moulton said he would like to see a change to the drug’s designation.
“That’s why I’m fighting in Washington to get that changed,” Moulton said. “It is why I’m passing legislation to chip away at that.”
He said there is support from both Democrats and Republicans on this issue.
For instance, Moulton has co-sponsored three bills with Congressman Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, to expand medical marijuana as a treatment for veterans.
One bill would encourage veterans to discuss their use of marijuana, including as part of a state medical marijuana program, with their Veterans Affairs health care providers without fear of losing their benefits or being discriminated against.
Present VA policy says that as long as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, “VA health care providers may not recommend it or assist veterans to obtain it,” according to the VA’s website. The policy does encourage veterans to discuss their use with their providers. Moulton’s bill would turn the policy into law.
Another bill would look to survey veterans’ medical marijuana use, and a third would train VA care providers in the use of medical marijuana.
“My cannabis bills are bipartisan,” Moulton said. “They have Republican support, so I think we can get them passed. Now the question is whether we can get them through a Republican Senate. Now that’s going to be hard, but I think we can get them past the House.”
Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran who still gets his care from the VA, has championed the cause of making sure veterans have access to marijuana.
“I have a lot of friends who are using cannabis not only because it helps, but because it means they don’t have to use opioids. No one wants to get addicted to opioids,” he said.
“But a lot of Americans and a lot of veterans have pain that they need to manage, and cannabis is a much safer way to do that, and I want to ensure that everybody has safe, legal access to whatever treatment they need.”
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.