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Two Groups in Massachusetts Fighting to Legalize Marijuana in 2016

Boston. Photo By Jeff Gunn/Flickr

Politics

Two Groups in Massachusetts Fighting to Legalize Marijuana in 2016

Two groups of cannabis activists in Massachusetts recently announced that they would be submitting the language of initiatives aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana to the state’s Attorney General’s office on Wednesday. The proposals, which reportedly seek to legalize the herb under completely different regulatory schemes, are seeking permission to begin collecting signatures in hopes of earning a spot on the ballot in the 2016 election.

Reports indicate that the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and the Bay State Repeal are both vying for a chance to end statewide prohibition. However, instead of combining forces and launching a mega-effort to free the leaf, the two initiatives are at odds over exactly what the best possible method is for bringing this level of reform to the people.

The Campaign (CRMLA) is looking to tax and regulate marijuana by creating a cannabis industry similar to the ones currently underway in Colorado and Washington. This proposal includes a 3.75 percent special tax on retail cannabis, which would be in addition to the state’s sales tax, and it would also allow residents to cultivate up to six plants at home for personal use. To its advantage, the CRMLA has the support of the Marijuana Policy Project, a national pot advocacy group that has been instrumental in the passage of these types of initiatives in other areas.

“The primary objective of this initiative is to actually start controlling marijuana in Massachusetts,” Will Luzier, director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, told Reuters. “Marijuana should be produced and sold by legitimate, taxpaying businesses, not gangs and cartels.”

Meanwhile, the Bay State group (BSR) has designed their proposal a bit differently, suggesting that imposing tight regulations, such as those proposed by CRMLA, would not in any way eliminate the black market. Instead, this group is pushing to legalize the cultivation, possession and sale of marijuana, but they want to do so without creating a separate industry. BSR suggests that marijuana should simply be regulated like other commodities purchased by adults 21 and over – taxed only by the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax.

In order to better their chances at receiving a green light, BSR said it plans to submit three different versions of their proposal to Attorney General Maura Healey.

“We’re about liberty and keeping it away from kids,” said Steven Epstein with the Bay State group.

If the attorney general clears these initiatives, they will have until November 2015 to collect around 65,000 signatures if they expect to be included on the ballot in the next presidential election.

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