Citizens’ Initiative Review Pilot Program: Question 4

This year Massachusetts voters will head to the polls to decide whether four initiative petitions will become law.

In Massachusetts, the Secretary of the Commonwealth‘s Office publishes and distributes a voter guide, which contains information on each question.  There is a summary of the proposed law, which is written by the Attorney General’s Office; an explanation of a “yes” or “no” vote, jointly authored by the Secretary of the Commonwealth and Attorney General Offices; a statement of fiscal impact, prepared by the Executive Office of Administration and Finance; and 150 word arguments provided by the “yes” and “no” campaign committees.

In addition to the voter guide, a pilot program spearheaded by the office of State Representative Jonathan Hecht, Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life, and Healthy Democracy will add the voices of regular voters to information available by putting one ballot question to a Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR.)  The State of Oregon has used CIR since 2011 and has found it is an effective way to communicate information to voters about ballot questions.  From a pool of 10,000, 20 voters selected to reflect the demographics of the electorate, participated in four days of review and deliberation on Question 4 regarding the Legalization, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana.  Their findings have been drafted and published as the Citizen’s Statement, which includes key findings and arguments for and against Question 4.  The results of the CIR pilot project will be studied to determine whether the process will be helpful to Massachusetts voters and expanded in future years.  Representative Hecht filed a bill that would establish a permanent Citizens Initiative Review Commission in Massachusetts.

To learn more about the Massachusetts CIR Pilot Project, please go to:

Andrew Bettinelli
Legislative Aide
Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger



10 replies on “Citizens’ Initiative Review Pilot Program: Question 4”

  1. I voted no on Question 4. Medical marijuana is still a mess. No plant count. There is no way that smoking is a healthy activity and grow operations have caused tremendous property damage and fires. It is unclear if damages from marijuana activity will be cover by insurance as it is federally illegal. I don’t see how the state can force landlords to break federal laws. On page 22 Section 9 there seem to be plenty of protections for the marijuana industry from seizure and forfeiture, but I do not see any for landlords. Most tenants want smoke free housing period.

    1. Does a yes on Question 4 force landlords to abandon the signing of a lease? Because the owner of a property can demand pretty much anything of a prospective tenant, if the tenant disagrees then they can live elsewhere. I would also question your assertion about growing causing tremendous fires and property damage, where did you get that information? Is it any more dangerous than growing tomatoes? Considering the relative safety of consuming cannabis when compared to alcohol (which is responsible for thousands of deaths each year in the Commonwealth), that taxation of cannibis would be a financial windfall to the state coffers while at the same time putting underground dealers and criminal element who benefit from its illegality out of business, and that continued prohibition makes criminals out of otherwise law-abiding, productive members of the community, and I see no morally sound argument for its continued prohibition. But that’s why we have discussions and votes, so we as the public can derermine for ourselves what we determine to be safe behavior.

  2. I’ve shifted views on Question 4 ,which you might have seen in my two Letters in the Globe. I was initially for legalization, mainly to deprive the revenue from criminal gangs. But in reading about the experience of states that have legalized weed, and seeing the corporations avidly bidding for the business, I now realize that corporate profit and growth goals and marketing will make weed more and more desirable to more and more people, and it most certainly will be freely available to the kids, despite any legislated “controls.” Is any teenager who wanted booze unable to find someone over 21 to buy it? So, I’m disappointed, Will, that you have come down on the other side. I know that’s the popular side, but anyone with kids in school will see the effect. And scientist do not know with any assurance the potential health effects of weed.

    1. ” And scientist do not know with any assurance the potential health effects of weed.”

      One of the main reasons that is true is because it’s preposterous status as a schedule 1 drug. One of the main reasons I support Q4 is the hope that laws like it will lead to rescheduling and to scientists being able to study it without fear. As long as we maintain this regressive and puritanical approach, we will remain ignorant of both risks and potential rewards.

  3. I’m still undecided. I understand that taking pot broadens one’s perspective and induces a sense of detachment that is sometimes useful, other times not (e.g., when driving). It doesn’t seem to harm the body but may impair decision-making and induce lethargy (potentially useful for type-A’s, not necessarily for slackers).

    My main concern is the eventual, almost inevitable, commercialization and vertical integration of the “industry,” which is already taking place and which could make it difficult for small businesses in the trade to continue to operate. I don’t want to see multinational conglomerates take over the market and would hope the legislature doesn’t succumb to vested interests in crafting very necessary regulations that favor hegemonic entities.

    So Will, do you think the Great and General Court is wise, attentive, and scrupulous enough to regulate pot and limit its abuse by both consumers and producers?

  4. No on Four! Research has shown significant changes in adolescent brains on pot it is a drug that can impair function and the last thing we need is more impaired drivers. The smoke is as damaging to lungs as cigarette smoke so why add yet another carcinogenic substance to our already serious health issues. Financially that doesn’t make any sense.
    If there seem to be beneficial medical effects, then why wasn’t the route to medical marijuana taken through the pharmaceutical industry as pills, capsules, or tinctures where strength would be regulated and production monitored for cleanliness and uniformity.
    Finally edible pot products will inevitably end up in the hands of children. The whole thing seems to be to be a wimping out on yet another problem that is challenging to regulate. It is hard to believe that yet another drug can add to our quality of life. I believe the negatives from scientific research and do not think “getting high” is an appropriate way to manage frustrations!!

    1. If there are research findings that prove pot is carcinogenic, I haven’t seen them. In fact cancer patients smoke it to relieve the pain and side-effects of their therapies.

      Pharma can’t invest in cannabis because such research is *still* illegal for the most part. I’d rather not see cannabis decriminalized for drug companies but not for people. And Pharma would surely gouge consumers and insurers for such products if it had the chance.

      Making it easier to get prescription painkillers than pot has led to a horrible epidemic of abuse of legal drugs. Weed is a much more benign way to “manage frustrations” *except* for the fact that it can land one in jail, which may be the ultimate frustrating experience. Pot must be decriminalized.

      Unlike opioids, to my ken nobody has ever OD’ed on pot. It’s not a “gateway drug” unless criminal pushers up the ante. But if we legalize, let’s make sure corporate pushers don’t act in their stead.

      Frankly, I’m much more concerned about toxic chemicals in the food kids eat – poisons and additives that can shorten their lives – than them getting high. Drug abuse is basically a social problem, so let’s not criminalize it or even medicalize it. There are a host of reasons people are frustrated. Most have to do with poverty and miserable life choices. Let’s deal with them directly.

    2. Do you know what else changes an adolescent’s brain? Sending them to prison. Why should you determine how I manage my frustrations? Pursuit of happiness, and all of that…

  5. There already is a pot business: criminal organizations and street sellers. In our Nation, the business is worth $Billions, just for pot.

    As a percentage of population, today there is the same proportion of blacks living in Concord as there were slaves during the Revolutionary War. Most today are in the Concord Prison, and many for selling illegal drugs and pot. (Globe reporter within the last 7 days)

    It’s time to discard what doesn’t work: suppression. It’s time to begin to develop what can work better: a legal, regulated, taxed pot market. As for all illnesses, the future must include the appropriate and necessary social and medical and educational services to mitigate excessive use.

    Other at risk substances, both legal and illegal, include: pain killers like Oxycontin or heroin, foods like sugar, and tobacco, to name some.

  6. I’m so glad the CIR project is being explored, it seems a good way to encourage people to weigh in. As fas as pot goes, as a mother I’ve given this a lot of thought. From a legal and social standpoint, it doesn’t seem to me to be worthwhile to have pot illegal, anymore than alcohol. I do think pot is detrimental, but I also think alcohol is too. I just hope that legislators take a serious look at good ways to regulate the industry, since industries do not generally have people’s best interests at heart, just their own bottom line. I think we need more drug education for children. When my kids were teenagers, they thought marijuana was good for you, medicinal. When I tried to teach them about the brain studies showing that it damages adolescents’ brains, they thought it was propaganda. So adolescence is probably too late for this kind of education. Thanks Senator Brownsberger, as always, for your willingness to take in citizens’ views.

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