Backers File Signatures for Mass. Pot Legalization Question

Sponsors of three other proposed ballot questions also said they had collected more than enough signatures required to proceed

Supporters of a proposal that could make Massachusetts the fifth U.S. state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana said they met a Wednesday deadline to submit voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. 

Sponsors of three other proposed ballot questions also said they had collected more than enough signatures required to proceed. 

Jim Borghesani, spokesman for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said Wednesday that the group turned in more than 25,000 signatures to city and town clerks around the state ahead of a 5 p.m. deadline. 

Only 10,792 certified signatures are required at this stage of the process, but sponsors of ballot initiatives typically try to gather many more as a hedge against signatures that are disqualified for various reasons. 

The marijuana proposal would allow people 21 or older to possess up to 1 ounce of pot for recreational use and impose a 3.75 percent excise tax on retail marijuana sales, imposed on top of the state's 6.25 percent sales tax. 

This was the second and final round of signature-gathering in the ballot question process. Organizers were required to collect more than 60,000 signatures last year to place their initiative petitions before the Legislature. The second phase was triggered when lawmakers declined to act on them by early May. 

The group Citizens for Farm Animal Protection, sponsors of a ballot initiative that would ban the sale of eggs and other food products that come from farms where animals are confined to overly restrictive cages, said it had gathered an additional 40,000 signatures to get on the ballot. 

"It is clear Massachusetts voters feel strongly about this initiative, which would finally protect farm animals from cruel and abusive treatment," the group said in a statement. 

Sponsors of a proposal that seeks to increase the availability of charter schools said they have turned in more than 30,000 signatures, some of which already have been certified. 

"The signatures submitted today represent the broad support that exists across Massachusetts for every family's right to choose the best public schools for their children," Eileen O'Connor, a spokeswoman for the ballot committee, said Wednesday.

Another education-related measure, one that would remove Massachusetts from the Common Core curriculum, also could be headed for the ballot with its sponsors saying they had about 32,000 signatures as of late Tuesday. 

The sponsor of a fifth possible ballot question, which would allow for a second slots parlor in the state, did not respond to a message seeking comment. 

The marijuana legalization effort still faces formidable opposition from top elected officials, including Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, also a Democrat. Reasons cited by opponents include the state's opioid addiction crisis and the possibility of marijuana being a "gateway" leading to more dangerous drugs. 

The Supreme Judicial Court has yet to rule on a lawsuit that claims voters who signed the petitions were not told marijuana products that would become legal, including food and beverages, may contain potent levels of THC, the drug's psychoactive chemical. 

Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska have previously legalized recreational marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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