In the marijuana reform movement, there are various splits and ideological factions. A diverse mix of all political types, we’re kind of well-known for infighting. Of all the rifts between us, though, these days there’s none bigger than the divide between repealers and legalizers.

Put simply: Those who favor the repeal of marijuana laws (as in those rules would be replaced by virtually nothing) make the case that prohibition and the cannabis black market–in all its various forms–are the true harm. They cite that for most adults, cannabis is a beneficial herb and food that should not be taxed or regulated.

On the other end of the spectrum, tax and regulation legalizers argue that safety and taxation could alleviate concerns that permeate some institutional structures when it comes to this new freedom and industry. As the commonwealth looks at the possibility of voting on such conditions in 2016, two places to look for developments on similar fronts would be Colorado and Washington, where the taxation of cannabis is underway.

As for action around here, in one camp, the Marijuana Policy Project–a national reform organization based in Washington, D.C. that led and funded the 2008 Massachusetts ballot initiative for decriminalization–is following its historic Colorado tax and regulation win with eyes on Massachusetts, where organizers are already making plans for a big push over the next two years. In a much different approach, the local organization Bay State Repeal is attempting to make the case that they can do better. To test alternative waters, they’re staging a campaign to poll voters on legalization language through nonbinding questions that will appear on a handful of ballots around the state when Massachusetts picks a new governor in November. Basically, voters will be asked if marijuana should be “regulate[d] and tax[ed] like alcohol,” or “regulate[d] like herbs” so long as vendors are prevented from selling or providing pot to children.

With so much happening, Blunt Truth sent over a few questions to Bill Downing of Bay State Repeal–a longtime activist, sometimes Dig contributor, and current controversial commonwealth caregiver–to get a sense of the organization’s immediate and long game goals.

What questions are Bay State Repeal hoping to run?

Our hope is to pose slightly varying versions of adult regulation in representative districts that voted in similar ways on cannabis ballot initiatives in 2008 [decriminalization] and in 2012 [medicinal cannabis]. Those variations are designed to meter public response to similar but strategically different questions. Just as a for instance, one of a pair of districts may be asked about adult regulation with an age of majority at 21 while the other of that pair may be asked about an 18-year-old majority. By comparing the voter responses in two districts that should otherwise vote very similarly, we can better meter probable voter response at the voting booth in November 2016 when adult regulation will be on ballots statewide.

How can people help?

Bay State Repeal is partnering with MassCann/NORML, the Drug Policy Foundation of Massachusetts, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the UMASS-Amherst Cannabis Reform Coalition, the NORML Women’s Alliance, and others to organize teams of signature gatherers. For each [House] district we need about 300 valid signatures, which means gathering about 500 raw signatures. Gathering 500 signatures is a daunting task, but a task we have won many times now. In fact, we have run almost 50 [nonbinding ballot questions] in Massachusetts and we have never lost. Some very skilled activists have gathered over 100 signatures in one day. Getting signatures on a petition takes a little training, but if you have an outgoing personality, you will quickly realize the appreciation of our large volume of supporters. [More info in how to get involved at

How do you think the Mass Repeal-proposed initiative would differ from what passed in Colorado?

First of all, we hope for legislation that is far, far simpler in both language and implementation. On the retail level cannabis is to be treated as an agricultural commodity with one important distinction–that it not be sold to children. Otherwise, the laws we have in place governing agricultural commodities already do just what we need done for cannabis as well–being properly weighed, packaged and stored as any other agricultural product would. All of these things are covered by laws we have already. Simpler means we don’t need a lot of things Washington and Colorado have cluttering their laws … One important thing we don’t need that those other states now have is a new giant, powerful, wealthy, state cannabis bureaucracy. Taxation of cannabis by a wealthy new state bureaucracy will mean the continuation of the destructive and amoral black market. A Herald study concluded that about 40 percent of cigarettes sold in Boston are black market cigarettes. Taxation places burdens on cannabis producers and consumers and the only justification is the same old reefer madness we’ve been trying to throw-off.

Lastly, the limit on the number of plants (6) each adult can grow in Colorado is unrealistic. Why should we limit home gardening at all?

It is my fervent hope the language of the cannabis legalization ballot question in 2016 will have been developed by Bay State Repeal. Even if it has been written by another ballot committee, hopefully with Bay State Repeal’s participation, we still have great expectations for superior initiative language in 2016.



  1. John John says:

    Bay State Repeal has the right idea. The only way forward is to treat cannabis no different than corn or wheat. I’ve been trying to get VA NORML to think that way for a while now. Although we have a republican controlled legislature we are the people and we should demand total repeal of all cannabis laws. No more new over regulation state cannabis laws or ridiculous oil bills. No one should have the right to tell me how many plants I can grow on my own land, or how much I can posses. As long as I am not selling cannabis to anyone, or giving it to children, what I am doing does not concern you. The mere possession of over an ounce of cannabis can get you felony charge for the intent to distribute, without any actual police work to prove that someone had the intent to distribute; you are essentially guilty without even having to prove you are not guilty and they don’t have to prove you were intending to sell the plant. We don’t arrest people for possessing too much alcohol, cigarettes or even too many guns but I can be arrested and thrown in a cage for virtually a life sentence if I am over a certain amount in almost all of the states that has legalized. Bay State Repeal, you guys have the right idea and don’t allow the other activist persuade you to leave unlimited home growing out. When I get out of the Army I am most definitely coming there.

  2. Either you want repeal or you want legalization. One of the two. Not a mix of the 2. NORML says a lot of times on their website. Legalize marijuana, Repeal Prohibition. Sorry it just wont work that way. I’m drawing a line in the sand here. Pick repeal or pick legalization. Whichever you think you want. Stick with what you want. Be willing to do whatever it takes to get what you want. Don’t get confused like the Repeal Today group did in Michigan. By presenting a petition that was half for repeal and half for legalization and regulation. It sounds like Bay State Repeal group is following a similar course as the Michigan group did. You really can’t do the same thing over and over expecting different results. If you really want repeal of prohibition then keep legalization in its own category, and vice versa. I have nothing against other cannabis groups wanting to do their own thing. However please be true to yourselves and don’t waste any time arguing with one another. We all want the same thing which is cannabis. Make it Lawful like dirt tomatoes and lawn grass. De-Schedule,Exempt,Repeal & Nullify Cannabis Prohibition Come grow with us at
    Kind Regards
    Bernard Lucas


    Either you want it OVER, or you want it FOREVER.

    Fairly simple decision, really.

    Love your enslavement? Want more of it? Just keep begging for “more of the same.” They’ll be quite happy to keep giving you more of it.

    Want your freedoms back? Then you need to REPEAL the statutes (they’re not “laws” at all…but that’s another story) that removed your rights, and gave them to government agencies and corporations and international conglomerates who couldn’t care less if you live or die…just as long as they make their profit on your labour…or put you into THEIR prisons to earn THEIR profits on YOUR labour that way.

    If we keep playing THEIR games that THEY designed, but with OUR lives and OUR freedom as both the only things we’ve got to bargain with, and what we’re going to lose if we keep playing THEIR games…inevitably, we’re going to lose.

    End the game.

    REPEAL cannabis prohibition. It’s been “legalized” far too long as it is…

  4. Linda Adler Linda Adler says:

    Why can we not just fully repeal and nullify any and all laws regarding this plant? At a federal level.

    Why offer anything else? Why accept anything less?

    Why should we beg, plead, grovel, etc. for our natural right to use a plant that has been used for CENTURIES unfettered? Why?

  5. Dana Carver Dana Carver says:

    Not only should we repeal and nullify this color of law, but we must hold the perpetrators accountable for treason. There needs to be much more education. Not in the health benefits of cannabis. Not how to grow cannabis. But, on natural rights and the path to nullification. Carry constitutions (both state and federal) and jury nullification literature with you at all times and spread liberty. We cannot win this without an informed army.

  6. Pingback: Repeal VS Legalization « Drug Policy Reform Network of Oklahoma