The signatures are in! Today at 1 p.m., The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) submitted its finalized petition to make legalization a ballot issue in 2016.
"This is direct democracy in action," said campaign manager Will Luzier in a press release. "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."
That enthusiasm translated into a flood of signatures. The CRMLA proposal, which is backed by the Marijuana Policy Project, gathered 103,000 signatures in total--nearly 40,000 more than the 64,750 signees required to put cannabis on the ballot. Residents are clearly eager to begin a new era by repealing prohibition.
"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 added. "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."
Here's the lowdown on the state of cannabis in Massachusetts:
The state has already decriminalized cannabis
If residents vote in support of this initiative next year, the state will take another major step on its way to full legalization. It decriminalized cannabis in 2008, and legalized medical marijuana in 2012.
The CRMLA proposal would allow adults aged 21 or older to carry around one ounce of cannabis, and grow up to six plants at home (and up to 12 plants total if they share accommodations). However, property owners and landlords can prohibit tenants from growing on rented sites. Cities and towns would also be given the power to limit where and when cannabis businesses are allowed to operate.
Consumers would pay 10 percent sales tax on their purchases. Municipalities would also be allowed to impose an additional 2 percent retail tax at their discretion.
There are two competing ballot initiatives
The CRMLA is not the only initiative on the table. A group called Bay State Repeal (BSR) is also gathering signatures for a November 2016 ballot question.
In a column posted last month, Russ Belville provided insightful analysis on how the two proposals differ. The Bay State Repeal, he wrote, is more liberal in the framing of its proposed law.
"Home cultivation and personal possession would be allowed with virtually no limits," he wrote. "A commercial marijuana system would be created with minimal taxation. Best of all, the rights of cannabis consumers in the workplace, in family court, and in medical decisions involving organ transplants would be protected."
CRMLA may have best chance of passing
Belville was enthusiastic about the BSR proposal, which is backed by MassCann/NORML, but he's concerned it has a lesser chance of winning the support of state voters.
"Fight for the better legalization, sure, give the voters that option, but accept that they may have to choose the good legalization before they're ready for the better legalization."
In any case, the BSR proposal hasn't yet received enough signatures to make the 2016 ballot.