Last Tuesday, 14 Massachusetts House districts voted in support of public policy questions directing their state representatives to make marijuana legal for adults. While these PPQs are non-binding, they set the stage for an expected 2016 statewide ballot initiative that the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), a national group based out of Washington, DC, will be funding with the aim of regulating marijuana the same way we do alcohol.
Two local groups, the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts (DPFMA) and Bay State Repeal (BSR), each leading separate PPQ campaigns, were behind the effort. In the case of the former, DPFMA landed eight local PPQs on ballots focusing exclusively on taxing and regulating cannabis in the same way as alcohol in districts that have previously shown significant support for marijuana reform.
All eight passed strongly (even better than I hoped for), with more than 70 percent in seven out of eight districts, and a still-impressive 69 percent in the other. Meanwhile, BSR ran campaigns in six districts that tested a wider representation of the state electoral map on a dicier proposition about whether marijuana should be regulated in the same way as herbs, fruit, and vegetables, with the added twist of a 21-plus age restriction. They won all six PPQs, with a range of 54 to 64 percent of the vote.
Also worth noting is Initiative 71 in Washington, DC: An initiative to make it legal for adults to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana, passed with an earth-shattering 37 percent margin, with 65 percent voting in support. Perhaps advocates in Mass should consider running the DC model in 2016 versus the DPFMA (tax and regulate like booze) model versus the BSR produce proposition.
Additionally, Evan Falchuk, running under the United Independent Party (UIP) banner for governor of Mass, spoke up both for legalization and also for local moms who are fighting to gain medical marijuana access for their children, who are suffering from daily seizures. Falchuk was rewarded at the ballot box, garnering 3.3 percent with 71,000-plus votes, which means the UIP will now be recognized statewide as an actual political party—a difficult thing to do when the mainstream media tells voters a third-party vote doesn’t count.
Finally, I was disappointed to see that Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe, who said he didn’t think voters were foolish enough to support cannabis legalization, was somehow narrowly re-elected in a tight race with 56 percent of the vote. This even as 73 percent of his constituents, many of whom voted for O’Keefe, said yes to DPFMA’s PPQ to tax and regulate cannabis in the same way as alcohol.
Guess you can’t win them all.