Massachusetts Votes To Legalize Recreational Cannabis

Massachusetts Votes To Legalize Recreational Cannabis

Massachusetts Changes State Law On Cannabis

How will police measure drugged driving? State law doesn’t have a marijuana impairment standard like it does for alcohol — 0.08 or greater blood alcohol concentration.

How should government help keep the drug away from children and ensure marijuana isn’t more accessible in high school parking lots and on college quads?

And how much regulation will lawmakers be able to enact before the industry — perhaps like alcohol and tobacco before it — becomes a powerful lobbying force?

State Senator Jason M. Lewis, a legalization opponent and an authority on the industry, said he fully accepts the will of the voters and that state officials “will move forward expeditously to implement the new law.”

But the Winchester Democrat said there are many important details that will be have to addresed by the Legislature and executive branch. And they will have to seek the views of public health experts, law enforcement, town, city and federal officials, the industry, and other people with a stake in the outcome.

“This work will be very complicated and time-consuming,” he said.

The voter-approved law creates a Cannabis Control Commission, an oversight body for the new industry. The three-member group will be appointed by state Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg and is tasked with setting standards for everything from marijuana advertising to edibles, the marijuana-infused products like brownies that have proliferated in legalization states.

The commission will have also have to address other thorny issues. The law allows people to legally grow up to 12 marijuana plants per household — a significant amount. How will they keep that product from being diverted to the black market?

Municipal leaders must also begin to figure out how to deal with the new industry. They can limit, but not ban, retail stores, cultivation facilities, and marijuana manufacturers. Town or city leadership can call a referendum, however, and voters can decide whether to completely prohibit recreational marijuana businesses.

The win follows pro-marijuana victories in the past two presidential election years.

In 2008, Massachusetts voters approved a ballot measure that replaced criminal penalties for the possession of one ounce or less of weed with a system of civil penalties. That law is usually described as decriminalization.

In 2012, Massachusetts voters approved an initiative making marijuana legal for medical use.

After decades of advocacy and a long, contentious campaign, voters in Massachusetts have legalized marijuana, passing ballot Question 4, the Associated Press is reporting as results continue to roll in.

As of December 15, it will be legal in the state for adults 21 and older to use marijuana, possess up to 10 ounces of it, and grow up to 12 pot plants at home. The referendum’s passage also clears the way for marijuana retail stores to open in the state as early as January 1, 2018.

The state will now create a Cannabis Control Commission to oversee a new industry for the drug. Sales of marijuana will be subject to a 3.75 percent tax (on top of the usual 6.25 sales tax). Communities will also have the option to tack on an additional 2 percent in taxes, which they can keep and spend locally. It will remain illegal to use marijuana in public or to drive while intoxicated.

“Massachusetts voters yesterday made a choice between two systems, one that would keep marijuana illegal and keep criminals in control, and one that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana and put commerce in the hands of licensed businesses under the control of state regulators and local authorities,” Yes on 4 spokesman Jim Borghesani said in a statement after the victory. “They chose a new path for Massachusetts, and we are both humbled and pleased by their decision.”

The result of the referendum is a rebuke of a majority of state politicians, who waged a bipartisan effort to oppose the ballot initiative via the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, whose leaders included Republican Gov. Charlie Baker as well as Democrats Attorney General Maura Healey, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

“We want to thank our incredible volunteers and bi-partisan coalition of supporters for their tireless work throughout this campaign,” Nick Bayer, No on 4’s campaign manager, said in a statement. “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. Voters chose to pass Question 4, we respect that vote, and now the work to implement this new law begins.”

In a year that broke records for ballot question fundraising, Proponents of Question 4 raised and spent roughly twice as much making their case to voters.

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