Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative, Question 3 (2012)

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Question 3
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Type:State statute
Referred by:Citizen initiative
The Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative, also known as Question 3, was on the November 6, 2012 ballot in the state of Massachusetts as an indirect initiated state statute, where it was approved. The measure would legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state. The initiative was backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance and the Committee for Compassionate Medicine. The initiative was filed with proponents turning in the required 10 signatures to the Massachusetts Attorney General's office by the August 3, 2011 deadline. Those 10 signatures were needed for the required ten qualified voters that draw up and sign the original petition to put forward the full text of the law they want enacted. The proposal was filed as Petition Number 11-11.[1]

Election results

See also: 2012 ballot measure election results

The following are official election results:

Massachusetts Question 3
Approveda Yes 1,914,747 63.3%

Results via the Massachusetts Secretary of State.

Text of the measure

Ballot language

The ballot language of the measure read as follows:[2]

A YES VOTE would enact the proposed law eliminating state criminal and civil penalties related to the medical use of marijuana, allowing patients meeting certain conditions to obtain marijuana produced and distributed by new state-regulated centers or, in specific hardship cases, to grow marijuana for their own use.

A NO VOTE would make no change in existing laws.[3]


The following is information obtained from the supporting side of the ballot measure:

  • According to reports, if the measure was enacted by voters, the National Organization for Positive Medicine hoped to establish a "marijuana compassion center" in Wakefield, Massachusetts. The group filed signatures for a local initiative to do so on April 1, 2012. The initiative stated that it wanted "a special bylaw requesting that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issue the National Organization for Positive Medicine (Federal Tax ID No. 019-64-5887) a registration to operate a single not-for-profit medical marijuana compassion center in the Town of Wakefield, MA."[4]
  • During a hearing from the Joint Committee on Public Health, Boston resident Eric McCoy stated: "I'm almost 60 years old and the only reason I'm able to function every day is because of marijuana. I would be lying flat on a bed otherwise because of muscle spasms."[5]


The following is information obtained from the supporting side of the ballot measure:

  • Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association executive director Wayne Sampson stated, "We’re very concerned that it is so loosely written, relative to who can obtain it and for what reasons."[6]
  • The Massachusetts Medical Society, which represented 24,000 doctors in the state, approved a resolution during the weekend of May 19, 2012 to oppose legalizing medicinal marijuana without scientific proof that it would be safe and effective on patients.[7]
  • After testifying at a Statehouse hearing relating to the measure, State Senator Stanley Rosenberg stated: "In the petition, any physician can say they believe medical marijuana will help this patient whether or not their condition or disease was listed on the legislation. I think that's a huge loophole that creates the opportunity for rogue physicians to go into the marijuana distribution business."[5]
  • Pediatrician Dr. Louis Fazen stated he would feel uncomfortable prescribing marijuana with little knowledge known about it, commenting on what he does know about the drug: "Smoking marijuana is dangerous to your health. We know that."[5]

Other perspectives

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley commented on the effects of the measure, but also stated that her office remains neutral on the proposal. Coakley said in an interview, "My position is if this passes as a ballot question it’s going to cause a huge headache making sure it’s not abused."[8]
  • The Patriot Ledger stated in an editorial that the measure should be decided by voters, not the Legislature, saying, "This is an issue that we believe should be decided by the citizens of the commonwealth, not in the behind-the-scenes muscling that goes on in the offices and corridors at the Statehouse."[9]

Media endorsements

See also: Endorsements of Massachusetts ballot measures, 2012


  • The Boston Herald stated, "We’re taking our guidance from the Massachusetts Medical Society, which opposes Question 3 because the safety and efficacy of marijuana as a prescription for pain have not been adequately proven. Pain is a terrible thing for the truly sick, but this ballot question isn’t the answer."[10]


2012 measure lawsuits
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Ballot text
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Signature challenges
Initiative process

Heidi Heilman et al v Attorney General and Secretary of the Commonwealth

In May 2012, The Massachusetts Prevention Alliance filed a petition to the state supreme judicial court requesting that the wording of the ballot question be changed. According to reports, the group claimed that the wording of the measure hid key provisions of the potential state statute. For example, the group argued that a network of dispensaries would be created to comply with the law, if enacted, but that this was not shown clearly by the wording.[11]

Shortly after, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley moved to dismiss the petition. According to the Attorney General's office, the petition did not offer a valid alternative way to write the ballot question.[11]

During the case hearings, associate justice on the state Supreme Judicial Court Robert Cordy was skeptical of the ballot measure's wording, indicating he was open to a re-writing of the proposal's language, asking the Attorney General, "If it was entitled, 'Medical use of cigarettes,' would you have a problem with that? What's your evidence there is a medical use of marijuana?"[12]

Around June 8, 2012, the supreme judicial court ruled in favor of the opponents who filed the lawsuit, stating that the measure's language was misleading. The court ruled that Coakley rewrite the ballot language.[13]

In a decision on July 2, 2012 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Robert J. Cordy approved newly rewritten language of the measure.

According to reports, the main part of the language that was rewritten was the "yes" statement reads that reads, "A yes vote would enact the proposed law eliminating state criminal and civil penalties related to the medical use of marijuana, allowing patients meeting certain conditions to obtain marijuana produced and distributed by new state-regulated centers, or, in specific hardship cases, to grow marijuana for their own use."[14]

The case docket can be read here.


Polls, 2012 ballot measures
  • A poll was released and conducted by Public Policy Polling regarding the measure in late August 2012. According to reports, the poll revealed that 58% of those surveyed are in favor of medical marijuana. The actual question that was asked read: "Question 3 would eliminate state criminal and civil penalties for the medical use of marijuana by qualifying patients. If the election was today, would you vote yes or no on Question 3?"[15]

Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided Number polled
Aug. 16-19, 2012 Public Policy Polling 58% 27% 15% 1,115

Path to the ballot

Each of the ten original signers of the proposed measure must obtain certificates of voter registration from the board of registrars or election commission in the city or town where they are registered voters. The certificate of voter registration must be signed by at least three registrars. These certificates and the original petition must then be submitted to the Massachusetts Attorney General.

Once the petition is found acceptable, the Attorney general will prepare a summary and return it and the petition to the petitioners, who must file the petition and summary with the Massachusetts Secretary of State.

Once that is submitted, petitions are printed and circulation can begin.

Circulation and submission

Backers must have collected 68,911 signatures by November 23, 2011 and turn them into local registrars. Signatures were filed by that deadline, according to reports, by supporters. Validated signatures were then returned to supporters, who had until the December 7, 2011 petition drive deadline to turn those signatures in to the Massachusetts Secretary of State's office. Supporters turned in those signatures by the deadline.[16]

Those signatures were deemed valid, leaving the proposed law to be sent to the Massachusetts General Assembly for consideration, since the measure is an indirect initiated state statute.

The proposal was filed with the Massachusetts Legislature by Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin as signatures were verified before the start of 2012.[17]

Second signature gathering phase

May 2, 2012 was the last day for the Massachusetts General Assembly to enact legislation similar to the measure. However, since the general assembly did not choose to make the proposal a law, supporters must now gather additional signatures to obtain ballot access. Those signatures must have been obtained from about 1/2 of 1% of voters who voted in the last governor election and supporters must have submitted them to local clerks.[18]

Validated signatures must then be turned in by the first Wednesday of July to the Massachusetts Secretary of State's office. Since the deadline fell on a national holiday, July 4, that deadline was July 3. Supporters turned in signatures by the deadline. Those signatures were verified.[19]

See also


  1. Boston Herald, "Medical marijuana supporters considering 2012 ballot push", July 21, 2011
  2. Massachusetts Secretary of State, "2012 Information For Voters", Retrieved September 14, 2012
  3. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  4. Wicked Locall, "Medical marijuana center eyed for Wakefield if proposed ballot question passes", April 2, 2012
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2, "Sen. Stanley Rosenberg says medical marijuana ballot question flawed", April 11, 2012
  6. Metro West Daily News, "Mass police chiefs oppose medical marijuana", September 20, 2012
  7. The Republic, "Mass. doctors oppose ballot question on medical marijuana in absence of scientific study", May 21, 2012
  8., "Medical marijuana would create 'huge headache,' Coakley says", April 12, 2012
  9. Patriot Ledger, "OPINION: Let voters decide on medical marijuana", April 18, 2012
  10. Boston Herald, "No on Question 3", October 22, 2012
  11. 11.0 11.1, "Coakley Moves to Dismiss Ballot Question Petition", Retrieved June 10, 2012
  12. Mass Live, "Opponents seek changes to ballot question that could legalize medical marijuana in Massachusetts", June 4, 2012
  13., "Mass. medical marijuana opponents win challenge", June 8, 2012
  14. Massachusetts Live, "Wording of medical marijuana ballot question approved by Massachusetts judge", July 2, 2012
  15. Opposing views, "Poll Shows Massachusetts Voters Support Ballot to Allow Use of Medical Marijuana", August 23, 2012
  16. Mass Live, "4 proposed ballot laws could go to Massachusetts voters in November", December 4, 2011
  17. Mass Live, "Secretary of State William Galvin to file statewide ballot questions proposing 'death with dignity,' medical marijuana and teacher evaulations", January 3, 2011
  18. Boston Herald, "Next stage to begin in Mass. ballot effort", May 2, 2012
  19. Massachusetts Secretary of State, "Initiative Petition for Law", Retrieved August 10, 2011