Thursday, 10:24 AM
Proposal to decriminalize pot clears a hurdle
By Globe Staff
Proponents of a law that would decriminalize marijuana possession in Massachusetts say that they've taken another step toward getting their proposal on the statewide ballot next fall.
The proponents have filed more than 105,000 voter signatures with city and town clerks, said Whitney A. Taylor, campaign manager for the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy. The signatures were filed in 349 of the state's 351 communities, she said.
The proposal would call for civil, rather than criminal, penalties for people caught with one ounce or less of marijuana. Taylor's group says it would save taxpayers millions in law enforcement costs and save 7,500 people a year from getting criminal records.
Opponents argue that marijuana is a "gateway drug" that could lead people into addiction to other drugs.
Today is a key deadline for those proposing to get new laws or constitutional amendments on the statewide ballot. They must file at least 66,593 signatures with the local clerks to keep their proposals alive. Most groups file more, in case some of their signatures are deemed invalid.
Activists who want a ban on greyhound racing in the state said yesterday that they had collected more than 100,000 signatures.
John Belskis, an activist leading a campaign for changes in Chapter 40B, a state affordable housing law, also said his group had submitted petition signatures in more than 200 towns. He said his group may have filed as many as 75,000 signatures.
Other ballot campaign organizers didn't return messages seeking comment.
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