Massachusetts Voters Ready To Legalize Marijuana In 2012

Voters in Massachusetts appear to be ready to legalize marijuana in 2012, according to an analysis of the votes on local cannabis legalization advisory ballot questions last Tuesday.

Massachusetts allows for citizens to place non-binding local “public policy questions” on the ballot. And voters in several precincts weighed in this year on whether their local representatives should “vote in favor of legislation that would allow the state to regulate and tax the marijuana in the same manner as alcohol.”

More than 150,000 votes were cast on the marijuana issue across Massachusetts, in districts containing about 8.5 percent of the total vote.

Jon Walker, Firedoglake: "Massachusetts is a strong candidate for becoming one of the first states to embrace legalization"

In the districts where pot policy was on the ballot, the advisory question passed with an overwhelming 61 percent of the vote, but these districts were slightly more liberal than the rest of the state, reports Jon Walker at Firedoglake. So to determine how those results might translate to a statewide marijuana legalization ballot question, Walker used two different metrics to analyze the data.

Walker’s analysis led him to conclude that a small majority of the individuals who turned out to vote this year in Massachusetts supported legalizing and regulating cannabis in the same way the state does alcohol.

“This is a good sign for marijuana reform given that midterm elections tend to have much lower turnouts among young voters,” Walker said, “who are, in general, more supportive of legalization — and this midterm in particular had a higher than normal turnout among older conservatives, who tend not to support marijuana reform.

“For these reasons, the 2012 electorate is almost assured to be even more supportive of legalization than the 2010 electorate,” Walker said.

“This analysis of the election results, combined with other factors, suggests Massachusetts is a strong candidate for becoming one of the first states to embrace legalization,” Walker said. “There is strong evidence that if a well-crafted marijuana legalization initiative makes it onto the ballot in 2012, it could pass.”

Since 2000, Massachusetts voters have reacted positively to every ballot question before them which eased restrictions on marijuana, reports David Riley at The Metro WestDailyNews.

To date, voters have approved all 63(!) public policy questions regarding cannabis legalization, including 18 this year alone, according to advocacy groups, Riley reports.

This year’s measures were put up by the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition (MassCann), the state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Bill Downing, MassCann: "If you want to win, you can do it here in Massachusetts"

The ballot questions demonstrate wide public support for reforming marijuana laws and serve as a grassroots organizing and public education tool, according to Scott Mortimer, a volunteer for the Drug Policy Forum. The DPF backs legislation to allow unauthorized medical patients to grow, possess and buy marijuana if recommended by a doctor.

“We’re polling a giant portion of the population,” said Bill Downing, director of MassCann. “We’re not calling them on the phone and asking them questions — they’re actually going into a ballot box and voting.”

MassCann supports a bill to legalize marijuana and allow state regulation and taxation of its production, saqles and distribution.

“One of the major purposes of running these public policy questions is to have the most accurate public polling that we can have,” Downing said. “The reason for that is so that we can take those numbers to moneyed sources and say, look — if you want to win, you can do it here in Massachusetts.”

About the author: Steve Elliott, a working journalist since 1982, is editor of Toke of the Town, Village Voice Media’s site of cannabis news, views, rumor and humor.