Boston City Council President Michelle Wu and Councilor Tito Jackson are set to formally endorse the state initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The move, which is set to be made official Wednesday morning, pits the duo against Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who is helping to lead the charge against the referendum.
A 2007 graduate of Harvard College, Wu said she never used the drug but recalled some classmates did during their years in Cambridge.
“It just seems ridiculous that kids at Harvard can smoke pot and have incredibly successful careers while blacks and Latinos, particularly men and boys, who are using the same substance are sent to jail,” she said.
“It doesn’t make sense for our criminal justice system. It doesn’t make sense for our economy. Certainly, there are issues we have to work out for our regulation of it, but I believe we are up to the task,” Wu said. “I will be voting yes on the ballot question.”
Jackson said the new revenue streams from the effort to legalize and tax marijuana could help fund more treatment beds for people struggling with opioid addiction. He said legalization will help shrink the illegal drug market while creating an industry that brings sustainable jobs to Boston. And, he said, legalization will help address racial disparities in the prosecution of drug crimes.
But the opposition includes Walsh, Governor Charlie Baker, and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. Top medical, business, education, and law enforcement groups — from the Massachusetts Medical Society to the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association — also oppose legalizing retail sales of marijuana.
Walsh on Tuesday noted the scourge of opioid overdoses across the state. “We’re putting money into reducing addiction,” he said, “and I think legalizing marijuana is the wrong direction to go in.”