Make no mistake about the battle of the dueling marijuana legalization ballot initiatives in Massachusetts. On one side, there is the underdog, Bay State Repeal (BSR), which wants to put in place the “least restrictive laws possible.” On the other side, there is the well-funded Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA).
In spite of the latter’s fundraising prowess, however, at the most recent MassCann/NORML members meeting, at which more than token social capital was on the line, BSR walked away with an early victory in what will likely be a long and brutal game of chicken.
At stake for the two campaigns: the institutional endorsement and enormous weight of a coveted thumbs-up from MassCann, the longest-running marijuana reform organization in Mass.
Representing BSR, an animated Steve Epstein explained that his group aims to treat cannabis as a right for adults, while CRMLA treats grass as a privilege that is only allowed under certain conditions. In response, CRMLA’s Will Luzier referred to the Department of Justice’s Cole Memorandum, which calls for stricter regulations in state cannabis commissions in order to keep federal authorities at bay. Smartly, Luzier also stated that his organization’s plans would in many ways improve upon the Colorado law, with less taxes and the option for cities and towns to allow clubs in which adults can congregate with cannabis in private spaces.
In the end, it wasn’t even close. MassCann/NORML members endorsed BSR’s campaign in a landslide, and supported several follow up motions to pledge institutional backing for the BSR signature drive at the upcoming Boston Freedom Rally. Furthermore, MassCann will provide social media assistance, as well as an expected $25,000 donation to the campaign should BSR need funding in September.
“Thanks to all in attendance, whether you voted yes on the 9 motions, abstained, or voted no,” Epstein wrote to his group’s email list announcing the endorsement, encouraging people to join their cause on Facebook and Twitter.
Speaking to Luzier of CRMLA after the meeting, he said, “We were happy to be invited to speak. I wasn’t surprised by the results but disappointed. BSR’s Steve Epstein is a founder of MassCann, so it’s not that surprising that they would find BSR’s philosophy more appealing.”
“We would still like to get their endorsement,” Luzier continued, indicating that the regulate-like-alcohol campaign will pursue the MassCann endorsement again if BSR fails to appear on the ballot. “We are about the same thing—ending prohibition—and would welcome their support.”
As for their own chances in the wake of MassCann’s decision, Luzier says, “We will be on the ballot, no question on that.” Still, he gives respect where it’s due. “That BSR sought support for social media and financial indicates that it was very important for them.”
Indeed it was. With MassCann/NORML’s endorsement and financial support, the BSR campaign can survive and potentially even thrive for the next couple of months, and maybe a little longer, with a far better chance of appearing on the ballot than it had just a few days ago.