It is almost inevitable that Massachusetts will be forced to answer to the issue of marijuana legalization within the next year.
Earlier this week, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a group working to establish a statewide cannabis industry similar to what is currently underway out West, submitted well over 100,000 signatures to the Secretary of the Commonwealth in hopes of qualifying the necessary 65,000 to get their initiative in front of the legislative brass. If all goes according to plan, organizers could receive approval from the state later this month.
“This is direct democracy in action,” campaign manager Will Luzier said in a statement. “People can see that our current prohibition policy isn’t working, and they’re taking action to replace it with a more sensible system. Based on the level of support and enthusiasm we saw during the petition drive, voters are ready to end prohibition and start treating marijuana more like how our state treats alcohol.”
The proposal under consideration would allow residents at least 21-years-of-age to purchase marijuana from retail shops in the same way they do beer. Not unlike the drink, legal pot would be slapped with a special tax of 3.75 percent in addition to the states 6.25 percent sales tax.
Once the initiative is approved by the state, it will go before the Massachusetts Legislature to see if local lawmakers are interested in picking up the issue during the next session. If they reject it, which is expected, supporters for the campaign will need to collect an additional 11,000 signatures to get the question in front of voters in November.
Although Bay State Repeal is running a competing initiative, one that seeks to establish a cannabis trade without a special excise tax, High Times was unable to confirm whether the group had yet submitted enough signatures to continue the fight.
In August, the two groups seemed fully prepared to settle their campaign differences behind the scenes rather than get together on a single initiative to ensure the average voter doesn’t get confused enough to kibosh the whole deal. There is speculation, however, that a joining of forces could soon take place, just like the same Marijuana Policy Project supported group recently did in Maine.
Nevertheless, at least one initiative aimed at bringing down the prohibitionary standard in Massachusetts appears to be destined for the ballot. And supporter say they feel confident that the voting majority will support their efforts.
“Most of the voters who signed the petition cited a desire to replace the underground marijuana market with a more controlled system in which marijuana is taxed and regulated,” Luzier said. “There’s a general consensus that we’d be better off if marijuana were produced and sold by licensed businesses instead of cartels and gangs. Also, most people agree that adults should not be punished simply for consuming a product that is less harmful than alcohol.”