An initiative to legalize cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol in Massachusetts received approval Wednesday from the Attorney General’s office. The attorney general is required to review all initiative petitions to ensure they meet certain constitutional requirements and must prepare a “fair, concise summary of the proposed law” to appear on petitions and the ballot.
“Massachusetts is another step closer to ending marijuana prohibition and replacing it with a more sensible policy,” said Will Luzier, Campaign Manager for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. “We’re already finding a lot of support and enthusiasm among voters. People are fed up with laws that punish adults simply for consuming a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol.”
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) will now file the petition with the Secretary of the Commonwealth, which has 14 days to sign off on it, at which point the campaign will begin its signature drive. Initiative backers must collect the signatures of 64,750 registered Massachusetts voters over a nine-week period from September to November. The petition would then be transmitted to the Massachusetts Legislature. If the legislature does not adopt the measure, initiative backers must collect 10,792 signatures in June 2016 to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot.
In summary, the proposed initiative would:
· allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and grow a limited number of cannabis plants in their homes, similar to homebrewing;
· create a tightly regulated system of licensed cannabis retail outlets, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities, which will be overseen by a commission similar to the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission;
· create a 3.75% state excise tax on retail cannabis sales (in addition to the standard state sales tax) and allow local governments to establish an additional local sales tax of up to 2%. [Medical marijuana will NOT be subject to these additional taxes.]
“Our goal is to take marijuana out of the underground market and start controlling sales similarly to how we control alcohol sales,” says Luzier. “Marijuana should be produced and sold by licensed, taxpaying businesses, not by cartels and criminals. If Massachusetts can successfully regulate and tax alcohol, it can successfully regulate and tax a less harmful substance like marijuana.”