Massachusetts: Marijuana Legalization Drive Gets A Little Clearer
By Steve Elliott
The push to legalize marijuana in Massachusetts got a little less complicated this week. Voters had faced the possibility of two separate pro-legalization questions on next year's ballot, but now only one group's initiative is still standing.
The Committee to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) on Tuesday said it had submitted enough signatures -- more than 64,750 -- to the secretary of state to move forward in getting a proposed law in front of voters, reports Adam Vaccaro at Boston.com. If the signatures are deemed valid, the question will go to the Massachusetts Legislature; if the Legislature fails to act by May, CRMLA wilal need about 11,000 more signatures to make the ballot for November.aaaa
The leader at Bay State Repeal, a competing ballot question, on Wednesday night conceded his group hadn't gathered enough signatures to qualify. "We didn't make it, Steve Epstein said.
The two groups have pitched different approaches to legalization. The CRMLA, backed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), is of the "tax and regulate" philosophy with pages and pages of tight rules, including a new state commission and an excise tax on cannabis sales.
Bay State Repeal, led by longtime local activists, sought what it called the least restrictive laws possible, such as allowing most existing retailiers to sell marijuana and dividing light supervision of the industry between several state agencies.
Epstein on Wednesday said he'd "use every skill in my power" to oppose CRMLA's ballog question, calling it a "bad law" that supports "crony capitalism." But other activists said they'd support CRMLA's proposal if it's the only one to make the ballot.
Bill Downing, chairman of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, confirmed on Thursday that he now personally supports CRMLA, and said he expects MassCann to eventually vote to support it as an organization. Other activists had previously said they were worried if both questions made the ballot, they could split the vote, resulting in both falling short.
”Though our approach differs from [Bay State Repeal]’s, we hope that all who supported BSR will join with us to end the 100-year-long hypocrisy of punishing adults for choosing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol,” CRMLA spokesman Jim Borghesani said in a statement Thursday.
Massachusetts voters decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2008, and legalized medical marijuana in 2012.