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Boston City Councilors Wu, Jackson Back Legal Marijuana Ballot Question

City Council President Michelle Wu and fellow Councilor Tito Jackson said they support a ballot question to legalize marijuana, putting them at direct odds with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Walsh is helping to lead the opposition effort against the November ballot measure. (Seth Perlman/AP)
City Council President Michelle Wu and fellow Councilor Tito Jackson said they support a ballot question to legalize marijuana, putting them at direct odds with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Walsh is helping to lead the opposition effort against the November ballot measure. (Seth Perlman/AP)
This article is more than 4 years old.

Two Boston city councilors are throwing their support behind a November ballot question to legalize recreational marijuana in Massachusetts.

Boston City Council President Michelle Wu and City Councilor Tito Jackson, both Democrats, stood before the State House Wednesday with several supporters to announce their approval of the measure and help kick off the "Yes on 4" campaign.

Speaking with WBUR's Newscast Unit on Tuesday, Jackson said his support stems from wanting to grow opportunities for people of color. He said minorities are imprisoned disproportionately on charges of intent to distribute marijuana and legalizing pot would give some people access to legitimate work.

"Some of these folks, who sadly don't have other opportunities, would have the opportunity to run their own businesses and be entrepreneurs," Jackson said.

Wu and Jackson are not the first high-profile Boston officials to weigh in on the ballot question.

As the councilors made their announcement at the State House Wednesday, opponents of the legalization released a letter signed by 119 members of the Legislature. A majority of the state Senate — 22 members — and House — 97 members — signed the opposition letter.

Those opposed to legal pot also include political heavyweights Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey.

They, along with House Speaker Robert DeLeo, have each come out against legalization within the last few months, with the Democratic mayor and Republican governor citing concerns about the legal marijuana industry impacting children's health and worsening addiction crises, like the state's growing opioid epidemic.

In March, Healey explained her opposition to legalizing recreational pot, pointing to conversations she'd had with other state attorney generals in Washington and Colorado who she said told her legalization did not drop rates of drug trafficking in their respective states.

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and Carol Rose, executive director of ACLU Massachusetts, joined Wu and Jackson outside the State House Wednesday morning to express their support for the measure. Morse is the state's first — and so far only — mayor to support the initiative.

Wednesday also marks the opening of the first medical marijuana dispensary in Boston. It is the state's seventh dispensary now open for business.

Marijuana was decriminalized in Massachusetts after a ballot question in 2008. In 2012, voters supported a ballot question to legalize medical marijuana, making the Bay State the 18th to do so in the nation.

With additional reporting from the State House News Service

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Lisa Creamer Twitter Managing Editor, Digital
Lisa Creamer is WBUR's digital managing editor.

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