EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

November 28, 2013

Mass. activists push to fully legalize marijuana

BOSTON (AP) — Pro-marijuana activists in Massachusetts have already succeeded in paving the way for dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries and decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the drug.

Now many of those same activists have set their sights on the full legalization of marijuana for adults, effectively putting the drug on a par with alcohol and cigarettes.

And those activists — as they have in the past — are again hoping to make their case directly to voters.

The group Bay State Repeal says it’s planning to put the proposal on the state’s 2016 ballot. The group is first planning to test 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 of the final, binding question.

Bill Downing, a member of Bay State Repeal, said the state should legalize marijuana for many reasons, especially since the use of marijuana no longer carries the stigma it once did and many people smoke the drug despite laws against it.

“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.”

The activists have some reason to be hopeful. Not only have Massachusetts voters twice supported past efforts to ease restrictions on marijuana, but other states and cities have also recently moved toward lifting prohibitions on the drug.

Last year, voters made Washington and Colorado the first states to legalize the sale of taxed marijuana to adults over 21 at state-licensed stores.

This month, voters in Portland, Maine, overwhelmingly passed a question making it legal for adults 21 and over to possess up to 2 1/2 ounces of pot but not purchase, sell or use it in public.

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