Massachusetts

U.S.: How Will Marijuana Influence Super Tuesday?

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

As Super Tuesday fast approaches, Kind Financial CEO David Dinenberg decided to take a look at the influence of marijuana on the voters in the affected states.

"Most of the Super Tuesday states are historically Red states, and while that might be true today, many of these states are considering passing laws in favor of medical marijuana," Dinenberg said. "Alabama, Georgia, and Texas are considering legislation.

"Others, such as Vermont and Massachusetts, already have medical marijuana and now are considering recreational," Dinenberg said. "Of course, Alaska and Colorado have recreational use."

Dinenberg pointed out that Donald Trump is leading in the polls in every Super Tuesday state that has passed or is considering medical or recreational marijuana. "Mr. Trump is on record supporting states' rights," Dinenberg said. "While he doesn't favor federal legalization, his pro-states' rights just might be enough to fend off his competitors."

Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz both oppose medical marijuana, according to Dinenberg. "I ask this question to the candidates," he said. "How do you plan on winning an election that 58 percent of the voters disagree with you?"

Massachusetts: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Struggle To Keep Up With Demand

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Just four dispensaries sell medical marijuana in the state of Massachusetts. With 18,476 active patients, a 50 percent increase from last August, that has led to shortages, and those four shops are struggling to keep up with patient demand.

According to Kay Lazar of the Boston Globe, 14,079 ounces of medicinal cannabis were sold in Massachusetts in 2015. The four operating dispensaries are Alternative Therapies Group, the first to open, in Salem; Central Ave Compassion Care in Ayer, In Good Health, Inc., in Brockton; and New England Treatment Access in Northampton, reports Gintautas Dumcius at MassLive.com.

His dispensary is struggling to keep up with the demand for marijuana, said In Good Health's David Noble. According to Noble, demand is running seven times what he expected when he opened the shop in early September. The dispensary has served 3,453 patients since opening, Noble said.

Noble said his dispensary is in the midst of "operational changes and is conducting longer-term strategic planning so that it can meet the higher demand for its products, and we thank those who depend on the dispensary for their patience."

Massachusetts: Judiciary Committee To Hold Hearing On Marijuana Legalization Bill

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The Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing Wednesday on a bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use.

Dick Evans, chairman of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is supporting a 2016 ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts, assisted in drafting H.1561 and will join lead House sponsor Rep. David Rogers to testify in support of the measure.

Rogers and Evans will hold a media availability at 12:30 p.m. ET just outside of the hearing room in the State House, where they will discuss the details of the legislation and the benefits of replacing marijuana prohibition with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.

“It’s time for Massachusetts to replace the failed policy of marijuana prohibition with a more sensible system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol,” Evans said. “We support this legislative effort, but we are also committed to moving forward with the initiative so that voters can take over if the Legislature fails to act.

“Whether it happens in the legislature or at the ballot box, the result will be the same,” Evans said. “Our communities will be safer because marijuana will be produced and sold by licensed businesses instead of criminals in the underground market.

Massachusetts: Secretary of State's Office Validates Marijuana Legalization Signature Drive

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The Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office on Friday certified 70,739 signatures submitted by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, clearing the way for the petition to move forward toward the 2016 state ballot.

“Today’s announcement confirms that the people of Massachusetts want to vote on an initiative to regulate marijuana and end the practice of punishing adults for using a substance less harmful than alcohol,” said campaign manager Will Luzier. “We are excited to have reached this milestone and look forward to the legislative debate over the benefits of ending prohibition and regulating and taxing marijuana.”

The petition will now be transmitted to the Massachusetts Legislature. If the legislature does not adopt the measure, initiative backers must collect 10,792 additional signatures in June 2016 to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot.

The proposed initiative would:

· Allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow a limited number of marijuana plants in their homes, similar to home-brewing;

· Create a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail outlets, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities, which would be overseen by a commission similar to the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission (ABCC);

· Provide local governments with the authority to regulate and limit the number of marijuana establishments in their city or town; and

Massachusetts: Marijuana Legalization Drive Gets A Little Clearer

CampaignToRegulateMarijuanaLikeAlcoholMassachusetts2016

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The push to legalize marijuana in Massachusetts got a little less complicated this week. Voters had faced the possibility of two separate pro-legalization questions on next year's ballot, but now only one group's initiative is still standing.

The Committee to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) on Tuesday said it had submitted enough signatures -- more than 64,750 -- to the secretary of state to move forward in getting a proposed law in front of voters, reports Adam Vaccaro at Boston.com. If the signatures are deemed valid, the question will go to the Massachusetts Legislature; if the Legislature fails to act by May, CRMLA wilal need about 11,000 more signatures to make the ballot for November.aaaa

The leader at Bay State Repeal, a competing ballot question, on Wednesday night conceded his group hadn't gathered enough signatures to qualify. "We didn't make it, Steve Epstein said.

The two groups have pitched different approaches to legalization. The CRMLA, backed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), is of the "tax and regulate" philosophy with pages and pages of tight rules, including a new state commission and an excise tax on cannabis sales.

Massachusetts: Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Submits Final Petition Signatures

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The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol on Tuesday wrapped up its petition drive in support of a proposed ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts.

Campaign leaders submitted their final petition signatures to the Elections Division of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, which is located in the McCormack Building in Boston.

The campaign has collected more than 103,000 total signatures, and 64,750 valid signatures of registered state voters are required to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

“This is direct democracy in action,” said campaign manager Will Luzier. “People can see that our current prohibition policy isn’t working, and they’re taking action to replace it with a more sensible system. Based on the level of support and enthusiasm we saw during the petition drive, voters are ready to end prohibition and start treating marijuana more like how our state treats alcohol.”

“Massachusetts is another step closer to ending marijuana prohibition and replacing it with a more sensible policy,” said Luzier. “People are fed up with laws that punish adults simply for consuming a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol.”

“Next year, voters will have the opportunity to end the failed policy of prohibition and replace it with a more sensible system,” said Luzier, a former assistant attorney general who previously served as executive director of the Massachusetts Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention. “Marijuana is significantly less harmful than alcohol, and our laws should reflect that.”

Massachusetts: Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Collects More Than 100,000 Signatures

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64,750 valid signatures are required to move the initiative another step closer to the November 2016 ballot

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol on Monday announced it has collected more than 100,000 signatures in support of a ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts. The signatures must be reviewed and certified by town and city clerks before being submitted to the secretary of the commonwealth by December 2.

The valid signatures of 64,750 registered state voters are required to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. After the secretary of the commonwealth’s office tallies and confirms the signatures, the petition will be transmitted to the Massachusetts Legislature. If the Legislature does not adopt the measure, initiative backers must collect 10,792 additional signatures in June 2016 to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot.

“Massachusetts voters want the opportunity to end the failed policy of marijuana prohibition in 2016,” said campaign manager Will Luzier. “This initiative will replace the underground marijuana market with a tightly regulated system of licensed businesses that pay taxes and create good jobs.

“It should not be a crime for adults to engage in the responsible consumption of a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol,” Luzier said. “Police have far more pressing things to worry about than issuing citations to every adult they find in possession of a small amount of marijuana.”

In summary, the proposed initiative would:

Kansas: 80-Year-Old Marijuana Dealer Pleads Guilty In Federal Court

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The dramatic exploits of a lifetime of smuggling came to an end on Thursday when 80-year-old Marshall Herbert Dion entered his guilty plea in federal court to running a huge marijuana-dealing and money-laundering operation.

Dion, who owned houses in Massachusetts, Colorado, and Arizona, had $11 million hidden in a North Reading, Mass., storage facility, and once crawled away from a Wisconsin plane crash as thousands of dollars in cash -- suspected drug profits -- floated through the air around him, reports Milton J. Valencia at The Boston Globe.

Under his plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Dion could serve 5 to 7 years in a federal penitentiary, ending a lucrative career that spanned decades until a chance traffic stop in, of all places, Kansas.

“Over the course of the conspiracy . . . he had sold approximately 3,000 to 10,000 kilograms of marijuana,” Assistant US Attorney Leah Foley claimed during a brief court hearing.

"Mr. Dion has embraced his responsibility and is looking forward to the next chapter in his life," said his lawyer, Hank Brennan.

The end began for Dion's smuggling career with a June 2013 traffic stop in Junction City, Kansas. A police officer pulled him over for driving 80 mph in a 75 mph zone; during the stop, the officer searched Dion's old pickup and found nearly $850,000 in cash.

Massachusetts: Doctors Use Marijuana As Opioid Substitute

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Hundreds of opioid addicts in Massachusetts are being treated with medical marijuana, and advocates say the new therapy is a life-changing alternative to the deadly epidemic of painkiller addiction.

"We have a statewide epidemic of opioid deaths," said Dr. Gary Witman of Canna Care Docs, which issues medicinal cannabis authorizations in seven states, and has nine clinics in Massachusetts, reports Chris Villani at the Boston Herald. "As soon as we can get people off opioids to a nonaddicting substance -- and medicinal marijuana is nonaddicting -- I think it would dramatically improve the amount of opioid deaths."

Witman said he's treated about 80 patients who were addicted to opioid painkillers, muscle relaxers or anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals, using cannabis with a one-month tapering program. More than 75 percent of those patients stopped taking the harder drugs, according to Witman.

Cannabis can treat the symptoms patients had been using opioids and other drugs to manage, such as chronic pain or anxiety, and treat them far more safely, Witman said.

Dr. Harold Altvater of Delta 9 Medical Consulting in Malden, Mass., agreed that he's also seen success with medicinal cannabis as a substitution therapy. "You are basically taking something that can be very harmful for an individual, and substituting with another chemical, just like you would with any other drug, that has a wider safety margin," he said.

Massachusetts: Sports Announcer Says Marijuana Saved Him From Addiction

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Boston sportscasting legend Bob Lobel is one of hundreds of Massachusetts patients who say they've found a safer and more effective substitute for opioid painkillers by using medical marijuana.

Lobel, 71, a longtime television reporter and anchor, has dealt with chronic pain for years, the result of numerous surgeries, reports Chris Villani at the Boston Herald. He's had two knee replacements, two rotator cuff surgeries, four back surgeries and, at separate times, fracture the tops of both femurs.

"That was brutal," Lobel said of the femur breaks. The constant pain which resulted left him taking handfuls of opioid pills.

"My issue was strictly pain," Lobel said. "I didn't want to take anymore OxyContin or oxycodone or Percocet, for a variety of reasons. The biggest thing I was worried about was addiction. But they also made me tired and it was hard to function and I couldn’t go on TV all drugged up.”

Pure curiosity led him to check out a medical marijuana event several months ago in Boston. While there, he met Dr. Uma Dhanabalan of the Uplifting Health and Wellness clinic in Natick, Mass. Dhanabalan is a strong advocate for patients using cannabis when they might otherwise find themselves addicted to opioids.

Massachusetts: Signature Drive Gets Underway In Support Of Marijuana Legalization Initiative

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State legislators and a former federal law enforcement official joined the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol at a news conference Tuesday in front of the State House to kick off the signature drive in support of a proposed ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts.

Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont), Reps. Jay Livingstone (D-Boston) and David Rogers (D-Cambridge), and Regina Hufnagel, a former federal corrections officer, were among the first to sign the petition.

The campaign must collect the signatures of 64,750 registered Massachusetts voters by November 18 to place the measure in front of the Massachusetts Legislature. If the legislature does not adopt the measure, initiative backers must collect 10,792 signatures in June 2016 to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot.

“I am proud to be one of the first signers of this well-crafted initiative," said state Rep. David Rogers. "I filed legislation this session to tax and regulate cannabis because our society's public health and safety strategies have failed when it comes to cannabis consumption.

"Rather than reducing use, over the years prohibition has put thousands of people in prison for nonviolent drug crimes, wasted countless tax dollars on incarceration and ineffective enforcement, and has helped give rise to a black market that funnels billions into the pockets of criminal enterprises," Rep. Rogers said. "I am glad that the people of Massachusetts will have the chance to end this failed policy in 2016.”

Massachusetts: State Legislators Among The First To Sign Marijuana Legalization Petition

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Masssachusetts state Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont), along with Reps. Jay Livingstone (D-Boston) and David Rogers (D-Cambridge), and Regina Hufnagel, a former federal corrections officer, on Tuesday morning signed a petition to legalize marijuana in Massachusetts.

The signatures were added at a news conference held by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts in front of the State House to kick off the signature drive in support of a ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in the state.

The campaign must collect the signatures of 64,750 registered Massachusetts voters to place the measure in front of the Massachusetts Legislature. If the Legislature does not adopt the measure, initiative backers must collect 10,792 signatures in June 2016 to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is supporting a 2016 statewide ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts. For more information, visit http://www.RegulateMassachusetts.com.

Massachusetts: Initiative To Legalize Marijuana Moves Closer To Ballot

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A proposed initiative to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in Massachusetts moved another step closer to the 2016 ballot Wednesday when the state Attorney General’s office certified the petition in support of the measure.

The attorney general is required to review all initiative petitions to ensure they meet certain constitutional requirements and must prepare a “fair, concise summary of the proposed law” to appear on petitions and the ballot.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) will now file the petition with the Secretary of the Commonwealth, which has 14 days to sign off on it, at which point the campaign will begin its signature drive.

“Massachusetts is another step closer to ending marijuana prohibition and replacing it with a more sensible policy,” said CRMLA campaign manager Will Luzier. “We’re already finding a lot of support and enthusiasm among voters. People are fed up with laws that punish adults simply for consuming a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol.”

Initiative backers must collect the signatures of 64,750 registered Massachusetts voters over a nine-week period from September to November. The petition would then be transmitted to the Massachusetts Legislature. If the legislature does not adopt the measure, initiative backers must collect 10,792 signatures in June 2016 to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot.

In summary, the proposed initiative would:

Massachusetts: Ballot Initiative Filed To Legalize Marijuana

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A statewide ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Massachusetts was filed on Wednesday with the office of state Attorney General Maura Healy. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) is behind the measure.

“Next year, voters will have the opportunity to end the failed policy of prohibition and replace it with a more sensible system,” said CRMLA director Will Luzier, a former assistant attorney general who previously served as executive director of the Massachusetts Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention. “Marijuana is significantly less harmful than alcohol, and our laws should reflect that.”

In summary, the proposed initiative would:

· allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow a limited number of marijuana plants in their homes, similar to home-brewing;

· 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 (ABCC);

· Provide local governments with the authority to regulate and limit the number of marijuana establishments in their city or town; and

Massachusetts: Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Headed By Former Assistant AG

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The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol on Wednesday announced that former Assistant Attorney General Will Luzier will lead the campaign in support of a 2016 ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts.

Luzier, a former Massachusetts assistant attorney general, served as executive director of the Massachusetts Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention from 2008 until April 2015. Previously, he served as chief of staff and general counsel to a state senator.

“Marijuana prohibition has been just as big of a failure as alcohol prohibition, and Massachusetts deserves better,” Luzier said. “Regulating marijuana like alcohol will replace the underground market with a tightly regulated system of licensed businesses.

"Marijuana should be sold by responsible Massachusetts companies, not violent criminals and cartels,” Luzier said.

The campaign also announced that Jim Borghesani has been hired to serve as communications director.

Borghesani held top communications positions in the offices of the Massachusetts governor and the Suffolk County district attorney, and he has worked for many clients in the private sector. He is a former reporter at the Patriot Ledger and the Boston Business Journal.

“Adults who consume marijuana responsibly are no more deserving of punishment than adults who enjoy a cocktail responsibly,” Borghesani said. “Regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol makes sense.

Massachusetts: First Medical Marijuana Dispensary Opens

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Three years after the state overwhelmingly voted to allow legal marijuana, the first dispensary in Massachusetts opened on Thursday: Alternative Therapies Group, based in Salem. The dispensary will accept patients by appointment only.

Unlike many other states, no marijuana will be grown on site, and most uniquely, no products will be on display – patients will have to choose their products via a computer screen. So much for the old smell test!

“The highly coveted license was approved on Friday and the facility will be operating in the neighborhood of Downtown Crossing," reports Lynda Johnson CapitalWired.com. "Patriot Care Corp. had already been approved to open such a dispensary in Lowell although provisionally. The corporation won the permit for a location in Greenfield as well thus becoming the only company that has been authorized to run three marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts."

State officials also said they are willing to allow another company to open dispensaries in Northampton and Brookline. "The decision to award Patriot Care Corp. the license has drawn sharp condemnation from a number of critics who claim that the company was being given a special kind of treatment,” reports CapitalWired.com.

Massachusetts: ACLU Win Protects Thousands In Cases From Drug Lab Scandal

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State High Court Ruling Provides Safe Harbor for Those Who Challenge Wrongful Convictions Based on Tainted Evidence from the Hinton State Drug Lab

The highest court in Massachusetts on Monday provided a safe harbor for thousands of people with tainted convictions stemming from Annie Dookhan's misconduct at the Hinton state drug lab.

In a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project, and Foley Hoag LLP on behalf of three individuals affected by the lab scandal, the Supreme Judicial Court issued a sweeping defense of due process, ruling that people may challenge their wrongful convictions without fear of retaliation by prosecutors.

"Today's decision is a profound victory for tens of thousands of people who were denied due process by misconduct at the Hinton Lab, and for anyone who has a stake in the integrity of the Commonwealth's criminal justice system," said Matthew R. Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. "For years, many of Annie Dookhan's victims have worried that challenging their tainted convictions could subject them to even harsher convictions and sentences.

"Many others did not even know that they could challenge their convictions in court, because public officials neither identified all of Dookhan's cases nor directly notified her victims," Segal said. "In a sense, many people did not know how to find the courthouse doors, and many others were too afraid to knock.

Massachusetts: Medical Marijuana Rules Dramatically Overhauled

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Massachusetts health authorities on Friday moved to dramatically overhaul the license granting process for medical marijuana dispensaries, hoping to streamline the process and remove subjectivity and politics.

Regulators from Governor Charlie Baker's administration said the new process gets rid of the secrecy they claimed was prevalent under former Governor Deval Patrick's administration, reports Kay Lazar at The Boston Globe. Controversay about the previous system of licensure inspired more than two dozen lawsuits.

Massachusetts patients still have no safe access at dispensaries, two and a half years after voters approved medicinal cannabis. Fifteen dispensaries have already been licensed, but none has opened.

“This change creates a more streamlined, efficient, and transparent process that allows the Commonwealth to maintain the highest standards of both public safety and accessibility,” said Dr. Monica Bharel, the state’s public health commissioner.

Under the new guidelines, dispensaries will be licensed similarly to other health care facilities such as pharmacies. Each application will be judged using clear guidelines and will move forward when the applying company meets the overhauled standards, according to officials. The old system involved scoring, essentially pitting applicants against each other.

Massachusetts: Lawmakers Push Forward To Legalize Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Massachusetts legislators are working on a marijuana legalization proposal, partly to counteract an expected 2016 ballot initiative push.

Cannabis advocates have long planned an initiative petition drive to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults, and political analysts have expected the measure to pass in 2016, reports Joshua Miller at the Boston Globe.

But some lawmakers are reluctant to let activists write a legalization law through ballot initiative. The legislators would rather write the law themselves, and have final say on the details. That's why 13 bipartisan sponsors introduced House Bill 1561, which would legalize marijuana for adults and establish a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, reports Phillip Smith at AlterNet.

"Wouldn't it be a good idea for the Legislature to look at it ahead of time, listen to every point of view, anticipate every problem that we would, and try to do it right?" said Senator Patricia D. Jehlen (D-Somerville), a lead sponsor of a bill to legalize, tax and regulate recreational cannabis.

"I think it's better, if we're going to do this, to do it in the Legislature than on the ballot," agreed Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, who claimed he doesn't have a strong opinion on legalization. Rosenberg isn't listed as a cosponsor, but later said, "I believe if the Legislature doesn't act on it, it will be done on the ballot."

Massachusetts: Legislature Considers Repealing Cannabis Prohibition

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Last week the Associated Press reported on the introduction of H. 1561 in the Massachusetts Legislature; the bill would legalize recreational cannabis consumption and sales.

"Bay State Repeal, the ballot-initiative committee aiming to draft the least restrictive citizen initiative repealing marijuana prohibition in 2016, is pleased 15 legislators are seriously considering marijuana law reform," the organization announced in a Wednesday press release.

"We are also pleased the bill permits home cultivation in any amount as long as minors have no access to the cultivation site and there is no intent to sell," the statement reads. "For Bay State Repeal, the right to grow cannabis at home is a key provision of any meaningful reform, both as a matter of civil rights and protection from overzealous law enforcement and as a check on excessive prices.

"We are less pleased to see that the proposed law creates a 'Cannabis Commission' to regulate cultivation and commerce in marijuana for profit," the release reads. "A new bureaucracy is a waste of taxpayer dollars and a mandate for overregulation. A better solution is to assign any needed licensing authority to the Department of Revenue. In addition, the proposed tax on recreational cannabis is excessive and becomes more so over the first four years.

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