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Marijuana Legalization Group Files Ballot Initiative

Backers are seeking to put marijuana legalization on the November 2016 ballot. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Backers are seeking to put marijuana legalization on the November 2016 ballot. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

An effort to put marijuana legalization to Massachusetts voters took a step forward Wednesday, as backers of a proposed 2016 ballot question filed the initiative with the state attorney general's office.

Under the proposal from the group The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, adults 21 and older would be allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and also grow a "limited" amount of the drug in their home — "similar to home-brewing," the organization said in a statement.

It said the initiative would also "create a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail outlets, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities, which will be overseen by a commission similar to the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission."

The proposal would create a 3.75 percent state excise tax on retail marijuana sales — in addition to the state sales tax — and allow municipalities to establish an additional local sales tax up to 2 percent.

“Next year, voters will have the opportunity to end the failed policy of prohibition and replace it with a more sensible system,” Will Luzier, director of the campaign, said in the statement. “Marijuana is significantly less harmful than alcohol, and our laws should reflect that.”

The ballot initiative echoes a bill on Beacon Hill. As WBUR reported in March, the legislation is being pushed by the Marijuana Policy Project, which said it would pursue a ballot drive if the bill failed to win support.

The bid to alter regulations on marijuana to replicate those for alcohol is not the only ballot effort for legalizing marijuana. As The Boston Globe reports, an effort by Bay State Repeal "is more focused on individual liberty, avoiding heavy regulation or any special taxes on the substance."

Bay State Repeal said it's submitting three possible versions of a question.

If the proposals pass the attorney general's review, initiative proponents would then have to gather tens of thousands of signatures of Massachusetts voters to get the questions on the November 2016 ballot.

In 2012 voters approved a ballot question on medical marijuana. Four years earlier, voters allowed decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.

Some of the state's biggest politicians, including Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey, are against marijuana legalization.

Wednesday is the deadline for filing proposed questions for the 2016 state ballot. Here are some other ballot initiatives that have been filed:

-- Secretary of State William Galvin filed an initiative petition on strengthening residents' access to public records.

-- A group is seeking to end Common Core standards in the state.

-- Unions are trying for a ballot question that would create an additional tax on those who earn more than a million dollars a year.

With additional reporting by The Associated Press

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