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Massachusetts Advocates Make the Push for Legalizing Pot

Bolstered by Colorado and Washington, pro-marijuana reformers are eying The Bay State in 2016.

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By Shawn Dwyer

01/13/14

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With the whiff of legalization in the air, marijuana advocates are targeting Massachusetts as the next battleground for making recreational pot legal. “In 2016, Massachusetts will find itself in the crosshairs for cannabis reform,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Given how the state has voted in the past and its overall liberal bent, Massachusetts probably nears the top of most lists as being the next one to fall. In 2008, voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that decriminalized small amounts of possession, while in 2012 they cleared a law that would allow medical use of the drug. Both measures passed with over 63 percent of the vote and have emboldened reform advocates to go all the way in 2016. “We intend to support an initiative in Massachusetts in 2016 that would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol,” said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the nonprofit Marijuana Policy Project.

Despite signs that such a measure could succeed, voices of doubt are splashing cold water on reform before it takes flight. “To make it available for recreational use, that’s going over a very different barrier,” said Representative Ellen Story (D-Amherst). “I’m not sure people in the state are ready for that and I’m certainly not sure I’m ready for that.”  Failure or success, of course, will depend on how groups on both sides of the issue spend their money and craft their message. “Massachusetts is fertile ground for it to pass,” said Republican strategist Rob Gray. “But that ground could quickly turn fallow with the opposition of conservative Democrats and other conservative-leaning voters if enough money is raised to oppose legalization.”

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