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Opponents of legal pot must speak up

Voters in the commonwealth of Massachusetts will face Question 4 on their November ballot, a measure that mirrors Nevada’s Question 2. Both would usher in the commercialization of legalized marijuana. Both initiatives were drafted and are promoted by the Marijuana Policy Project, based in Washington, D.C.. Each is locally sponsored by a “Committee to Regulate and Tax Marijuana Like Alcohol.”

Surprisingly, the pushback against legalization for the commercial marijuana industry has been much more emphatic in liberal Massachusetts than in Nevada. In May, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker made common cause with three leading Democrats — Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Attorney General Maura Healey. Together, they formed an opposition organization, The Committee for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts.

Currently, 120 bipartisan state legislators (84 Democrats and 36 Republicans) have signed up in opposition to Questino 4 in the Bay State. Only 10 legislators have endorsed it. Moreover, opposition to the initiative has been registered from important and diverse groups throughout the state, including medical organizations and hospitals, municipal associations, business organizations, school superintendents, law enforcement leaders and all 21 district attorneys.

As a result, Massachusetts public opinion on Question 4 has shifted dramatically. An initial poll in the state had “legalization” leading with 57 percent support. Two recent Massachusetts polls show it now losing by 10 percent.

In contrast, support for Question 2 in Nevada has been limited to a very small number of state legislators, including marijuana champion state Sen. Tick Segerblom and nine others. But opposition to the question has been muted. Gov. Brian Sandoval has voiced opposition and Sen. Harry Reid said he was “very, very dubious and concerned” about recreational legalization. While formal opposition is growing, there are still many Nevada officeholders and organizations that have yet to take a position.

Voters need to read the 13-page initiative on the ballot as Question 2. It’s a “business plan” written by members of the marijuana industry to exclusively benefit themselves. Its provisions include a self-serving industry overreach providing no local government “opt-outs” for any of Nevada’s 17 counties, unlike provisions found in Colorado’s legalization law and in Nevada’s medical marijuana law.

Section 14 of the initiative actually criminalizes personal cultivation within 25 miles of a retail marijuana establishment. It’s “phony legalization” drafted by the commercial marijuana industry.

Those in “liberal” Massachusetts know what’s at issue and their state has come together united in opposition to the commercial marijuana legalization initiative. If Massachusetts can do it, what’s the matter with more “conservative” Nevada?

Jim Hartman, an attorney in Genoa, is president of Nevadans for Responsible Drug Policy.

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