A pro-marijuana group in Massachusetts is hoping to put a bill on the state’s 2016 ballot that would legalize recreational marijuana.
Bay State Repeal will first test a version of the marijuana bill next year by placing non-binding referendum questions on ballots in a handful of districts. The group then plans to push for a statewide bill that would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over.
“There’s no moral impact anymore because the laws don’t reflect our common values,” said member Bill Downing.
Legalization in Massachusetts could generate at least half a billion dollars annually, and possibly much more if tourists can purchase cannabis for recreational use.
But supporters could face opposition from law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office.
Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, who is president of the Massachusetts District Attorney’s Association, said he opposes legalization. Blodgett said an unintended consequence of the decriminalization law in Massachusetts is that it’s harder to get young people into drug treatment and diversion programs because they can’t be arrested for marijuana possession.
“The medical information is irrefutable that kids who start smoking marijuana are more likely to have substance abuse problems as adults,’’ Blodgett said.
In 2008, the state decriminalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. In 2012, Massachusetts voters backed a bill to legalize medical marijuana, and throughout the fall the state has been accepting applications from entrepreneurs hoping to open medical marijuana dispensaries.