Advocates push for marijuana legalization in 2016

 

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By Christian M. Wade Statehouse reporter

BOSTON — Emboldened by victories in other states and recent polls showing widespread support, advocates of legalized marijuana are preparing to put the question to Massachusetts voters in 2016.

Supporters of legalization say they are drafting legislation to allow recreational pot cultivation and use, with a tax similar to those for alcohol and tobacco, for consideration in the legislative session that starts in January. They’ll also prepare a ballot question for the 2016 elections in case lawmakers fail to act.

“If the Legislature doesn’t do anything, we’ll go to the voters in 2016,” said Richard Evans, a Northampton attorney and chairman of a coalition that is pushing for legalization. “We want to give lawmakers the opportunity to enact it. Voters shouldn’t be making laws like this, lawmakers should. But when the lawmakers won’t, voters must.”

It seems unlikely the Legislature will sign off, given the track record of previous efforts. A bill to allow adults to grow marijuana while establishing a tax on retail sales failed to gain much support in the current session.

Still, Evans said he believes public opinion on marijuana use is turning, citing an easing of state laws and the approval of recreational use in Colorado, Washington and, more recently, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C.

In 2008, Massachusetts voters decriminalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, replacing jail time with a $100 fine. Four years later, voters approved the cultivation and use of medical marijuana. Both initiatives passed by more than 60 percent.

“It’s no longer a question of whether it will be legalized in the state, but when and how,” Evans said.

Medicinal uses, medical concerns

Opponents argue that recreational pot use should remain illegal, especially given the danger it poses to youth.

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