WMass voters divided over ballot question on legalizing marijuana

Wednesday was the deadline to file wording for ballot questions in the 2016 election.

(Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Wednesday was the deadline to file with the state any petitions and wording for potential ballot questions in the 2016 election. Several petitions were filed on the topic of legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

Medical marijuana is already legal in Massachusetts, but recreational use is illegal. Possession of less than one ounce of the drug is considered a civil offense with a $100 fine. More than one ounce is a misdemeanor and jail time of at least 6 months and a fine of at least $500.

One organization, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, planned to file its initiative petition language. In the proposal, adults 21 years and older would be allowed to have one ounce or less of marijuana and grow a “limited number” of marijuana plants in their homes. The industry would be regulated by a commission much like the State Treasurer’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. Retail marijuana sales would include a 3.75 percent state excise tax on top of a 6.25 percent state sales tax.

“I actually think it’s a really good idea. I think it would actually help our economy in a way,” said Jake Brunelle of Lee.

Cities and towns would have the option of imposing additional local sales tax of 2 percent and would have control of marijuana use as well as where it could be sold.

Another organization, Bay State Repeal, submitted three possible ballot questions regarding legalizing marijuana. All would legalize the acquisition, possession, consumption and cultivation of marijuana by people 21 and older. It would also impose strict penalties for those selling to underage people.

“I’m one that doesn’t mind partaking on a rare occasion, but I think putting more available pot out there can only lead to bad things with kids,” said James Bowers, formerly of Chicopee.

“I think if people are responsible enough to handle buying their own alcohol, they can handle buying their own marijuana, just as long as they make smart decisions and know when enough is enough,” Jen Bellanger of Chicopee told 22News.

Supporters believe legalizing marijuana would eliminate illegal sales and would be a source of revenue for the state. However, Governor Charlie Baker among other state leaders, cite Colorado and Washington: two states with legalized marijuana. They said in those states, there hasn’t been a drop in drug trafficking and people from out of state have been buying the drug to traffic it elsewhere. Pot has sold for cheaper on the black market, so it is still successful there, according to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

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