Advocates are preparing measures for a number of 2016 state ballots that would legalize recreational marijuana in several states, including Massachusetts. Voters have already approved full legalization measures in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia.
In Massachusetts, the two prominent groups behind the proposals are the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) and the Bay State Repeal. According to the groups, the measures move to recognize current public attitudes and practices regarding cannabis use. The initiatives are aimed at regulating the sale of cannabis in a similar manner to alcohol and at preventing its sale to minors.
If the state attorney general’s office judges the initiatives as constitutionally sound, advocates will begin the process of securing the 64,000-plus voter signatures needed to approve the measures.
The Marijuana Policy Project supports the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. CRMLA director Will Luzier reported:
“The primary objective of this initiative is to actually start controlling marijuana in Massachusetts. Marijuana should be produced and sold by legitimate, taxpaying businesses, not gangs and cartels.”
The 2016 ballot measures reflect the rapid change in American voter attitudes about the legalization of cannabis. A recent Suffolk University/Boston Herald survey found that 53 percent of Massachusetts voters currently support legalization, while 37 percent do not. The measures are likely to face resistance from several government officials. Among opponents to the initiatives are Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D) and State Governor Charlie Baker (R).
The two groups are proposing separate measures. The Bay State Repeal does not advocate for an additional tax on marijuana, while CRMLA suggests a 3.75 percent excise tax and the option for localities to propose their own additional tax. CRMLA advocates as well for a new state regulating commission devoted to cannabis.
Hinting that proponents are better prepared for 2016 with lessons learned from previous defeats, like California in 2010, executive director of marijuana-advocacy group NORML, Allen St. Pierre, stated:
“What we learned was we hadn’t incentivized this enough for middle class citizens to buy into it.”
Voters in Maine, Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, Nevada and California are all likely to address measures on their 2016 state ballots such as the initiatives being proposed in Massachusetts.