Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative, Question 3 (2012)

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The Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative may appear on the 2012 ballot in the state of Massachusetts as an indirect initiated state statute. The measure would legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state. The initiative is being backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, among others, including the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance. 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]


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

  • According to reports, if the measure is enacted by voters, the National Organization for Positive Medicine hopes 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 states that it wants "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." Reports say that supporters of the local initiative want it on a Fall 2012 town ballot.[2]
  • 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."[3]


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

  • The Massachusetts Medical Society, which represents 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.[4]
  • 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."[3]
  • 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."[3]

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."[5]
  • 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."[6]

Controversies and events

In May 2012, The Massachusetts Prevention Alliance filed a petition to the state judicial supreme court requesting that the wording of the ballot question be changed. According to reports, the group claimed that the wording of the measure hides key provisions of the potential state statute. For example, the group argues that a network of dispensaries would be created to comply with the law, if enacted.[7]

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.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9]

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 be obtained from about 1/2 of 1% of voters who voted in the last governor election and supporters must submit them to local clerks.[10]

Validated signatures must then be turned in by the first Wednesday of July to the Massachusetts Secretary of State's office. Since the deadline falls on a national holiday, July 4, that deadline could be either July 3 or 5.[11]

See also