In an election that broke barriers and rewrote history, the triumph of an African-American candidate is not the only “first,” resulting from the votes of Americans. Ballot Question 2 in Massachusetts, a new law enforcing civil penalties for small amounts of marijuana, passed with overwhelming support, making Massachusetts the twelfth state to decriminalize marijuana, yet the first by a vote of the people.
With a final tally of 65 percent in favor, and 35 percent against, Question 2 ignited controversy between social groups in Massachusetts, and even split generational gaps. Mothers Against Destructive Decisions and the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association were just a few of the groups vocally opposed to the passing of Question 2, with the American Civil Liberties Union leading the way in support.
“I don’t think it is the government’s business to tell you how to spend your leisure time. There a lot of things people do, that I don’t do, and I think they should be free to do them,” said Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, in an interview with CNN. Frank was an avid supporter of the decriminalization.
While this issue may at first seem unaffecting to those outside Massachusetts, the youth of America had a large part to play in the passage of this proposition. A Facebook group supporting the ballot supported a grassroots campaign, with 22,525 members currently, and that number growing. The group includes rebuttals to the “Vote No” arguments some Boston newspapers had printed, and videos and announcements of freedom rallies in celebration of the passing.
“I’m totally for it,” said Alicia Pacheco, a Northeastern University student in Boston. “Hopefully, other states will follow Massachusetts’ lead when it comes to a more hands-off approach to marijuana laws. Now someone who just has a small amount in possession won’t receive the same penalty as a big game drug-dealer, so it evens the punishments out in my eyes.”
In order to even be on the ballot, proposition questions must collect signatures to have their question put to a vote of the people. In Massachusetts, those signatures must total 3 percent of voters in the last governmental election. That number turned out to be 33,000.
While the law will not go into effect until December 5th, some proponents have already begun to bask in their victory.
“All other marijuana-related crimes, like sales or DUIs, remain untouched. Stricter than current law, juveniles would have their parents notified and must complete a drug awareness program and community service,” Whitney Taylor, the campaign manager for the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy, said. “Let the punishment fit the crime.”