I-Team: Breaking Down Mass. Marijuana Legalization Ballot Question

BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts voters have a big decision in November when it comes to legalizing Marijuana. Both sides of the issue will spend a lot of money to try to convince you whether or not to bring this billion dollar industry to the Commonwealth.

All week the I-Team is taking an in depth look at what legal pot would look like in our state.

The Act to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol has picked up steam. Recent polls show nearly 60 percent of Massachusetts residents support legalization.

Related: I-Team – Pot Or Not?

“I’m not into marijuana, but I think it should be legal,” said David in Brookline.

But public officials like Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Attorney General Maura Healey and Governor Charlie Baker have lined up strongly in opposition and are vowing to fight.

Marijuana dispensary in Colorado (WBZ-TV)

Marijuana dispensary in Colorado (WBZ-TV)

“I think it’s a big mistake opening up an industry here, a drug industry,” said Walsh.

The ballot question is 24 pages long. Something many voters won’t read completely through at their polling place. So we broke down some of the key pieces.

  • It allows retail dispensaries to sell marijuana to adults over the age of 21 in towns that allow them.
  • It adds a state sales tax and a fee structure to marijuana.
  • The Ballot question also sets up a state marijuana control board and advisory committee to regulate the sales and growth of recreational cannabis.
  • And it allows for people to grow marijuana in their homes for personal use.

It’s not that different than what has been legal for two years in Colorado where the marijuana industry quickly ballooned to a billion dollars per year in sales.

“They kind of seem like liquor stores. Not all that different to me,” said one suburban Denver resident of the dispensaries that have sprouted up all over the place.

When the I-Team traveled to Denver we found the industry has ramped up quickly and in some ways changed the city.

Two years after Colorado voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing pot there are 2500 marijuana related businesses in the state. That includes Denver’s River Rock Cannabis. Owner Norton Arbelaez gave the I-Team a tour of his grow facility and dispensary.

We asked if he thinks legal marijuana will take off in Massachusetts the way it has in Colorado. “Yes I do. Yes I do,” Arbelaez said. “Because I think there’s a pent up demand for cannabis.”

Colorado state officials warn it’s not only about money. Figuring out legal pot is a work in progress.

“I would strive to make the issue more complex. Before I make it simple,” says Andrew Freedman, Colorado’s Marijuana Coordinator. “Think about what this looks like ten years from now. Fifteen years from now.”


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