Marijuana Reform Measure Submitted in Massachusetts

As the 2016 election looms over our nation, dozens of marijuana groups are scrambling to get marijuana measures on their respective ballots. In Massachusetts, the first of these groups has just made its move toward putting an initiative in front of the state’s voters during the upcoming election.

On June 29, 2015, Bay State Repeal submitted a legalization initiative to the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General. Under the proposed ballot initiative, marijuana would become legal to persons 21 years or older, and past marijuana convictions would be expunged from criminal records.

In an effort to combat the black market, marijuana would be taxed at a rate of 6.25 percent. This would stand in stark contrast to other states like Washington, which has an effective tax rate of 47 percent.

“You’ve got to keep the price down so the profit margin isn’t enough for racketeers to take the risk,” explained Steve Epstein, an attorney for Bay State Repeal.

Both Colorado and Washington have had difficulty in combating the low prices of the black market; however, Colorado has recently seen a steep drop in marijuana prices, with the size of the state’s market continuing to grow.

For now, the people behind Bay State Repeal will have to have their measure pass muster with the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General. If the group’s ballot language is approved, it will have to collect approximately 43,167 valid signatures in order to make it onto the 2016 ballot.

With everything in flux, it is difficult to gauge the chances of the measure getting approved by the state’s voters, but certain legislators have expressed their confidence in a marijuana measure passing.

According to WAMC, Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg has expressed that a marijuana measure could pass. However, he also expressed concern that a voter led initiative would not consider the wishes of marijuana opponents.

“If they were at the table we might end up with a product because they’ll raise legitimate questions,” Rosenberg said. “[Opponents could] force the conversation to head in the direction of coming up with better solutions and so you’d end up with a better law.”

Given the legislature’s reluctance to take up marijuana reform, it is debatable as to whether lawmakers would produce better results; however, one cannot ignore the fact that passing reform through the legislature is much more deliberately bureaucratic than a citizen-led initiative.

Meanwhile, Andrew Freedman, Colorado’s top marijuana official, has recommended that Massachusetts discuss marijuana reform now instead of later.

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