What I learned about covering the economy

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By Stephanie Murray
@StephMurr_Jour

Put your money where your mouth is. Show me the money. Time is money.

It’s funny how many people are wary of the economy when you think about how often it comes up in conversation.

I was one of those people before I wrote my story, “What will be the economic impact of marijuana legalization?

But now that I’ve taken a deep dive into the economics of marijuana legalization, I’ve realized the economy isn’t so scary.

The really scary thing? People who ignore the economy.

If Massachusetts voters legalize marijuana next month, we’ll be looking at a $500 million recreational market in the state. That’s $10 million a week.

Sure, those are big numbers, but they didn’t come out of nowhere. Behind those facts and figures are the people fueling the marijuana debate.

Champions of legal pot say revenue has been stuck underground in a “black market” dominated by criminals. Opponents say the way the question is written, legalization will bring unwanted commercialization and pose a hazard to public health.

Both sides offer compelling arguments. If I support the booming tax revenue, I’m ignoring public health. If I support public health, well, the state’s missing out on millions.

What’s a girl to do? Follow the money.

People have poured about $5 million into either side of the marijuana debate. The Yes on 4 campaign has nearly $3.7 million coming in from people like New Approach PAC, research scientist Susan Ruiz and travel writer Rick Steeves.

Rick Steves? Susan Ruiz? They seem to be an unlikely bunch until you look at their history. According to the Boston Globe, Ruiz and her husband Rene Ruiz faced drug charges in 1999 when a man died in their Massachusetts Insitute of Technology dorm room from inhaling nitrous oxide.

Rene Ruiz told the Globe his wife’s donation to the campaign was simply philanthropic and unrelated, but hey, it makes you wonder.

In Steves case, he’s not just focusing on Massachusetts. According to an election guide by High Times, Steves toured Maine in a similar pro-pot fashion.

On the other side, healthcare groups and liquor companies have donated to The Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts.

That’s expected, right?

But joining them is casino mastermind and billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Adelson gave $1 million to the campaign Oct. 15, so it hasn’t shown up on the finance reports yet.

Adelson is the CEO of Las Vegas Sands, owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal and runs a clinic to help those addicted to opioids. Forbes dubbed him the 21st richest person in the world, worth $29.2 billion.

And he donated $25 million to Donald Trump’s campaign last month.

The point I’m making here is that beyond those big numbers there are the people who put them there. Don’t let the big numbers scare you.

Follow the money and you’ll be a smarter voter.

Email Stephanie at stephaniemur@umass.edu or follow her on Twitter @StephMurr_Jour.

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Author: stephaniemur

Editor in Chief of Amherst Wire at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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