Battle begins over 2016 ballot question for full marijuana legalization

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – You could soon be voting on a controversial question.

Two pro-pot groups have said they’ll be proposing full marijuana legalization ballot questions in 2016. Bay State Repeal is one of those groups, but would first have to collect the 68,911 signatures required to make the ballot. If their proposal becomes a 2016 ballot question, residents who are at least 21 years old could eventually be able to grow and buy the drug.

On Monday, State Senate President Stanley Rosenberg spoke out in favor of a nonbinding question on the 2016 ballot, which would also ask voters whether the state should legalize the use of marijuana recreationally. However, there’d be no guarantee it would become law.

West Springfield resident Charlie Avgoustakis told 22News after a botched beginning for the state’s medical marijuana industry, he thinks a ballot question would be a great idea. “A lot of people are looking for relief from different kinds of pain. I think it would be a good idea, it would help a lot of people,” he said.

Just this week, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he’s “absolutely” willing to take the lead against a potential referendum, despite economic incentives that could come with full legalization. West Springfield resident Keitha McDonald said she thinks it could help the state economically. “It seems like it’s a pretty profitable business for Colorado, so I’d rather see it be a legal business, and have it monitored appropriately similar to alcohol,” she said.

During the first year of full legalization, Colorado has made $53 million off the state’s 28% marijuana sales tax, but many people in western Massachusetts, including Nelly Crespo of West Springfield, worry the drug could end up in the wrong hands. “I think it’s a bad idea, only because I don’t feel comfortable with my kids being exposed to it, so I wouldn’t agree with it,” she said.

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