Massachusetts Legalizes Marijuana
Massachusetts voters on Tuesday approved a ballot question legalizing marijuana for recreational and commercial use, a decision that creates a major pot market on the U.S. eastern seaboard and a headache for State House leaders opposed to the measure.
Question 4 passed with 53 percent, according to initial results reported by Associated Press. With 64 percent of precincts in, 47 percent voted against the measure.
Will Luzier, the campaign manager for “Yes on 4,” said voter demographics tend to skew younger in presidential election years, and marijuana legalization consistently polls well among younger voters.
“Voters sent a clear signal that they prefer a new system that will control youth access and generate new revenue for the state,” “Yes on 4” spokesman Jim Borghesani added in a statement. “This victory must be viewed through a national lens, particularly in light of similar successful measures in other states.
Under the proposal, marijuana would be regulated by a new Cannabis Control Commission.
Supporters said taxing the substance will drive down the black market and create a safe, legal product, while opponents of the measure disputed that, arguing that highly potent products would be a hazard to children and pets. The “Yes on 4” outspent the “No on 4” by nearly two to one.
State lawmakers are expected to perform major surgery on the new law. Leaders on Beacon Hill have called the taxes imposed on marijuana too low, said law enforcement officials are unprepared to handle legalization, and referred to the ballot initiative’s language flawed.
But voters appeared to turn back those and other dire warnings from popular elected officials like Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who were part of an unprecedented bipartisan coalition of opponents that included physician and healthcare groups, the business sector and religious leaders like Cardinal Sean O’Malley.
Marijuana legalization is on the ballot elsewhere in the United States, including Maine and California, among other states. California
“Everybody expects California to approve it and that will be a massive market. But in Massachusetts you’ve had everybody against it but the people,” said Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, a top proponent of marijuana legalization who has been closely watching the campaign in Massachusetts. Past polls have largely shown Question 4 winning.
Massachusetts’s move to legalize marijuana is a “signal to the rest of the country,” Blumenauer told MassLive.com before polls closed on Tuesday.
In a statement, the “No on 4” campaign thanked volunteers. “Our goal throughout this campaign was to make sure people knew what they were voting on – that Question 4 wasn’t just about legalization, but the commercialization of marijuana in Massachusetts,” campaign manager Nick Bayer said. Voters chose to pass Question 4, we respect that vote, and now the work to implement this new law begins.”
Massachusetts voters had decriminalized small amounts of marijuana through a 2008 ballot measure, and in 2012, Bay State voters signed off on medical marijuana.
Rhode Island has been watching Massachusetts marijuana legalization efforts closely, with some fear of being left behind. The state could take its own steps toward legalization as a result of the successful Massachusetts ballot campaign.
Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. But in more than half of the United States, before the Nov. 8 election, marijuana has been legal in some form, whether it’s for recreational or medical use. Recreational marijuana use is allowed in four states — Colorado, Alaska, Washington and Oregon – along with the District of Columbia.