Different strategies for groups pushing legal marijuana – Boston Globe
Comments PrintJonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/File
Massachusetts recently opened its first medical marijuana dispensaries.
Two groups will file petitions for ballot measures Wednesday that would legalize marijuana for recreational adult use in Massachusetts, likely setting the stage for a fierce battle at the November 2016 ballot box.
But there’s another slow-burning conflict.
The groups’ efforts represent two fundamentally different philosophies on legalization. One would create a new regulation, taxation, and bureaucratic regimen for marijuana with similarities to the way alcohol is overseen in Massachusetts. The other is more focused on individual liberty, avoiding heavy regulation or any special taxes on the substance.
At the core of the divide are questions about personal freedom, the right role of government, and to what degree marijuana commerce should be overseen by the state. But there’s also another issue at play: What would a majority of Massachusetts voters support next fall?
Voters in four states — Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska — and the District of Columbia have already legalized marijuana for recreational use.
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And robust majorities of Massachusetts voters have already approved two measures easing marijuana laws in recent years. In 2008 voters okayed a ballot question that made possession of small amounts of marijuana punishable by just a civil fine. In 2012, voters approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes. How legalization is framed in 2016 will probably affect the outcome of the expected vote.
The ballot question committees are poised to submit their petitions — signed by 10 voters and shared early with the Globe — to Attorney General Maura Healey.
Should the proposals pass constitutional muster with her, the groups can begin the arduous process of gathering the tens of thousands of additional voter signatures needed to put an item on the ballot.
At this preliminary stage, it’s not clear if two marijuana legalization questions might make the ballot, though that is technically possible.
The proposal from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts would create a new “Cannabis Control Commission” with members appointed by the state treasurer to oversee a system that includes marijuana stores and other facilities.
The measure would impose a 3.75 percent excise tax on retail marijuana sales, in addition to the state’ …Read More