This is the fourth in a four-part series exploring the Massachusetts Ballot Questions, which will be voted on this November.
Massachusetts Ballot Question 4, if passed, would legalize the use of marijuana for adults 21 years of age or older, according to a petition filed with Attorney General Maura Healey’s office.
The goal of the law is to “remove the production of marijuana from the illicit market … by providing for a regulated and taxed distribution system,” according to the petition.
The proposed legislation would permit adults at least 21 years old to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana in public, to possess up to 10 ounces in one’s home and to grow limited amounts of marijuana for private consumption, according to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision on the initiative.
The legislation would establish a Cannabis Control Commission, which would have sole regulatory authority over the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of marijuana in the commonwealth, according to the petition.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy, an international student organization dedicated to ending the war on drugs, is currently working with the pro-marijuana legalization organization YES on 4 to encourage college students to vote in favor of the law, according to SSDP Massachusetts Campus Coordinator Austin Davis.
Davis said she supports a legalized and regulated system for marijuana because she believes it would be safer for both the general public and the consuming public to decriminalize its use.
“[Question 4] takes away the criminal element of the transaction, which inherently would make [marijuana] safer through regulation and legalization,” Davis said. “The government will require very strict regulations and oversight to make sure that there’s no marijuana leaving the market into the black market.”
Davis said she believes the legalization of marijuana will improve the quality of marijuana for human consumption.
“Through legalization, the government will require testing protocols and standards similar to what alcohol is subjected to,” Davis said. “So, when a person over the age of 21 goes into a dispensary to purchase marijuana, they will know that that marijuana has been tested for mold and for pesticides.”
Safe Cannabis Massachusetts, a local grassroots organization, is encouraging citizens to vote no on Question 4. The group is doing this by speaking with voters and legislators about potential problems with the proposed legislation, according to Daniel Delaney, the chair for Safe Cannabis Massachusetts.
Delaney said he supports the legalization of marijuana in the future, but feels the law proposed by Question 4 is approaching the process incorrectly.
“[The law is] entirely too permissive in the amount of home-growing that it allows. It ties the hands of cities and towns to zone and regulate marijuana shops in their communities, and it’s set up in a way that doesn’t give the state enough resources to properly regulate it,” Delaney said. “It’s asking the state to set up a whole policing network before it sees its first dollar from tax revenue.”
Delaney said the state is not ready to move forward with the legalization of marijuana in its current position.
“If we go about it in a way that the ballot initiative is going to propose, it’s going to be very disruptive. It’s going to be hard to keep marijuana away from kids,” Delaney said. “We’ve seen in Colorado … the places where the marijuana shops are located are in the communities with the least financial resources, so we see them focused in communities of color and low-income communities.”