Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Nov 7, 2012

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In a landslide approval, Massachusetts voters said yes to a ballot question legalizing medical marijuana in yesterday’s election. Residents with debilitating medical conditions and consent from their physicians can now legally purchase marijuana to treat their pain from chronic illnesses.

Ballot question number 3 passed with 63% in favor and 37% opposing. Critics of the law tend to think legalizing marijuana, even for medical use, will lead to more use among teens or young adults as a gateway drug. Proponents, however, are celebrating the win that will make the Bay State the 18th state to legalize medical marijuana.

The ballot measure was reportedly well-funded, in part by the chairman of Progressive insurance company, Peter Lewis. Efforts to support the law were spearheaded by the Committee for Compassionate Medicine, along with the ACLU of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance. Communities against the legalization were the medical professional community, some politicians, and Massachusetts law enforcement.

Under the new law, patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, HIV, hepatitis C, or other chronic diseases, can use a state-issued card to buy marijuana from distribution centers sanctioned by the state. The process of implementing the law will be overseen by the Department of Public Health in the following months.

Massachusetts is unique from other states in that ballot measures such as this can be submitted by citizens, these are called indirect initiative statutes. After a citizen-initiated bill is sponsored by a legislator(s), the necessary signatures have been gathered, specific deadlines met, and a general assembly vote has passed to place the question on the next election’s ballot, the final step is for voters to cast their choice. In yesterday’s election, there were three ballot questions for voters to consider; two passed, one did not:

  • Question 1: The Right to Repair Law (Approved) – Requires auto makers to give car owners access to the same diagnostic and repair information that dealers and authorized repair facilities have.  
  • Question 2: Doctor-assisted Suicide (Not Approved) – Would have given doctors legal authority to prescribe medication, at a terminally ill patient’s request, to end that patient’s life.
  • Question 3: Legalize Medical Marijuana (Approved) – Eliminates criminal and civil penalties for marijuana use by patients who have been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition and have permission from their doctors.

Other States and Marijuana Measures in the 2012 Election

Two other states, Washington and Colorado, became the first to legalize recreational use of marijuana in yesterday’s election. Oregon was also voting on the legalization of marijuana, but did not pass the measure; while Arkansas’s measure to legalize medical marijuana use was shot down by voters.

In Michigan, where medical marijuana use is already legalized, five local iniatives passed with flying colors, including measures to remove criminal penalties for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana; to allow more medical marijuana dispenseries; to make possession a civil, as opposed to criminal, offense, removing the potential for jail time; and to make enforcement of marijuana-related laws lower priority.

For information on marijuana laws in your state, click this link.