Over the past year, the state government has been running a trial program of something called the Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR), a system pioneered in Oregon and intended to help the general public better understand ballot questions. Since it’s a program, they decided to only focus on one initiative, and chose Question 4, which would legalize marijuana for adults over 21. The final report just came out, and while it was intentionally balanced, it ended up being much more in favor of the question than against.
How this process worked: In June 2016, CIR started putting together a group of 20 voters who were representative of the state population in terms of their demographics, ideology, party affiliation, and other demographics. They then spent many days hearing the pros and cons from the campaigns, and from unaffiliated experts. With the help of professional moderators, the 20 citizens then discussed the arguments and put together a document with their key findings and the most persuasive arguments on each side.
The findings: You can read the entire 2-page document here, but here are the five key findings, which were totally up to the discretion of the citizens:
The following findings are ranked in order of importance as determined by the citizen panel, from most to least important.
Question 4 provides significant control to city and town authorities by allowing safeguards on the operations of marijuana establishments. It protects business and landlord rights and it prohibits marijuana consumption in public areas.
Question 4’s taxed and regulated system is modeled after the State’s system for alcohol regulation. It replicates a system that is already working well in the State. The proposed system would be controlled, transparent and accountable.
Question 4 allows people to grow a limited number of marijuana plants in his or her home under lock and key for personal use. Sale of homegrown marijuana is still illegal.
Replacing the current marijuana policy in Massachusetts with a regulated and taxed system allows limited legal possession to persons 21 and over.
Legalization would prohibit marketing and branding toward children, as with alcohol and tobacco.
These findings support a lot of what the Yes on 4 campaign has been saying, and refutes many of the most common arguments from the opposition. It seems clear that the 20 citizens who were able to spend many days researching this issue realize that the initiative has tight controls, like we already do for alcohol, and would not lead to marijuana being marketed to children.