Group wants to give Massachusetts voters a chance to legalize pot
A group of pro-pot activists in Massachusetts are pushing a ballot measure to fully legalize marijuana.
The group Bay State Repeal hopes to get the proposal on the ballot in 2016 after testing different versions of the measure by placing nonbinding referendum questions on next year’s ballot in about a dozen state representative districts.
Those nonbinding questions are intended to gauge voter support for possible variations in the final measure.
Voters in Massachusetts have previously eased restrictions on marijuana, decriminalizing possession of up to one ounce in 2008 and instead making it a civil offense carrying a possible $100 fine.
Some towns have given up trying to enforce the law, the group said, because it had too many loopholes.
Voters in Washington and Colorado legalized the sale of marijuana last year to adults over 21 in state-licensed shops, and voters in Portland, Maine, passed a measure allowing adults over 21 to possess up to 2.5 ounces of pot but not purchase, sell or use it in public.
Some law enforcement officers oppose measures easing restrictions on pot, including Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.
‘‘I’m not saying everyone who tries marijuana becomes a heroin addict, but the medical information is irrefutable that kids who start smoking marijuana are more likely to have substance abuse problems as adults,’’ said Blodgett, who also serves as president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association.
He said the decriminalization law makes it harder for young people to get into treatment or diversion programs because they can’t be arrested for possession of the drug, and Blodgett said many private insurers don’t cover drug treatment.
Pro-pot activist Bill Downing rejected the idea that marijuana was a gateway to harder drugs and pointed out the measure would be restricted to adults.
‘‘This isn’t about getting pot for kids,’’ he said. ‘‘No one on my side says we are getting marijuana for kids.’’
Downing said marijuana use no longer carries the stigma it once did and that many people already smoke it despite laws against its use.
‘‘That’s the problem with the marijuana laws,’’ Downing said. ‘‘There’s no moral impact anymore because the laws don’t reflect our common values.’’
[Image: ‘A Marijuana Smoker Blowing Off Smoke During The Annual Marijuana 420 Event At Yonge and Dundas Square On April 20 2012 In Toronto, Canada’ via Shutterstock]