BOSTON — Supporters of a proposal that could make Massachusetts the fifth U.S. state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana expressed confidence they would easily meet a Wednesday deadline for voter signatures and qualify for the November state ballot.
Jim Borghesani, spokesman for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said late Tuesday that the group planned to turn in more than 25,000 signatures to city and town clerks around the state ahead of a 5 p.m. deadline.
Only 10,792 certified signatures are required at this stage of the process, but sponsors of ballot initiatives typically try to gather many more as a hedge against signatures that are disqualified for various reasons.
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The marijuana proposal would allow people 21 or older to possess up to 1 ounce of pot for recreational use and impose a 3.75 percent excise tax on retail marijuana sales, imposed on top of the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax.
This was the second and final round of signature-gathering in the ballot question process. Organizers were required to collect more than 60,000 signatures last year to place their initiative petitions before the Legislature. The second phase was triggered when lawmakers declined to act on them by early May.
The marijuana legalization effort still faces formidable opposition from top elected officials, including Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, also a Democrat. Reasons cited by opponents include the state’s opioid addiction crisis and the possibility of marijuana being a “gateway” leading to more dangerous drugs.
The Supreme Judicial Court has yet to rule on a lawsuit that claims voters who signed the petitions were not told marijuana products that would become legal, including food and beverages, may contain potent levels of THC, the drug’s psychoactive chemical.
Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska have previously legalized recreational marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law.