Massachusetts to Vote on Recreational Marijuana This Fall

An initiative calling for the legalization of adult use marijuana has qualified for the ballot in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts’ voters will have the opportunity to decide whether to legalize adult use marijuana this November. The “Legalization, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana” initiative qualified for the ballot after it received well above the 10,792 required signatures.

If it passes, the initiative would legalize the use, purchase, possession, and transfer of marijuana by adults aged 21 and older. Cannabis concentrates and edibles would also be legal. The measure will impose a 3.75 percent excise tax and a 6.25 percent sales tax on retail marijuana sales. A commission would be established to regulate the program.

The initiative had hit a little snag after opponents took the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol to court, claiming that the wording of the measure’s title and the one-sentence statement describing what a “yes” vote would mean were misleading. A Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the initiative could remain on the ballot, but did require the wording to be adjusted.

“The court issued a victory for the voters of Massachusetts today, assuring that their voices will be heard on the issue of legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana, an approach that is working in Colorado and other states and will work in Massachusetts,” campaign spokesman Jim Borghesani said in response to the judge’s ruling.

“Massachusetts voters will have their voices heard in November,” added Borghesani. “Our initiative, we think, puts forth a very commonsense alternative to the failed prohibition system that exists today.”

Ten Massachusetts lawmakers publicly endorsed the initiative in a press release.

“It’s time we got this over with,” Sen. Will Brownsberger, chairman of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. “The prohibition approach to the control of marijuana use just has not worked.”

The ten also claimed their support for the measure was due to concerns for social justice issues and the desire to bring in more tax revenue.

“Changing the way we think about drug policy will help reduce mass incarceration while undermining the underground economy and increasing tax revenue to more effectively serve our communities,” said Rep. Tom Sannicandro.

“Despite decades of current policy, nothing has changed and the time has long since come to take a more realistic approach,” said Rep. David Rogers. “By regulating and taxing the sale of marijuana in the Commonwealth we will allow law enforcement to focus on serious crimes, raise substantial revenue, and all but eliminate a dangerous black market.”

Massachusetts’ marijuana market could be worth $1.1 billion by the year 2020 if adult use marijuana were legalized, according to a report by marijuana data and investment firm ArcView Market Research and New Frontier. The report estimates that the state would bring in $300 million in sales in 2018 before the revenue eventually triples by 2020.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld has also voiced his support for the November ballot initiative.

“In Massachusetts, I would be supportive,” Weld said. “And I do think there’s something to the idea that by decriminalizing something, you take it out of the shadows. And then the incentives are not there for bad guys to do massive criminal sales.”

Several other states, including California, Maine, and Nevada, will be voting on recreational marijuana initiatives. Arkansas and Florida will vote on medical marijuana measures.