Over 60% of Massachusetts voters support marijuana legalization

Now that voters in Washington State and Colorado have approved marijuana legalization the obvious question is, what is next step for the reform community? What states are likely to be good targets for similar initiative campaigns in the 2014 or 2016 election?

One state that should be near the top of any such a list is Massachusetts. It is the most liberal state in the country and importantly it allows for citizens to put initiatives on the ballot.

In the past few election voters in the state approved other marijuana reform ballot measures by wide margins. In 2008, an initiative to decriminalize marijuana possession was approved with a 65.2 percent yes vote. Similarly in this recent election a medical marijuana initiative won approval with 63.3 percent voting yes.

The results of local non-binding public policy questions provide even stronger evidence that the state is ready to embrace legalization. In Massachusetts regular people can put non-binding public policy questions on their local ballot to spend a signal to local representatives about where their constituents stand on an issue. This cycle non-binding questions regarding marijuana legalization were on ballot in multiple districts covering roughly 10 percent of state and in each of those districts they won majority support. On average the non-binding marijuana legalization question receive a 66 percent yes vote.

To determine how closely these districts reflect opinions state-wide we can compare the vote on the non-binding legalization questions in these districts to both the Presidential vote and the vote Question 3, the statewide medical marijuana initiative.

Marijuana legalization public policy questions Question 3 Vote in these districts Question 3 vote state-wide
66%* 65.8% 63.3%

Marijuana legalization public policy questions Obama vote in these districts Obama vote state-wide
66%* 63.4% 60.8%

The districts with the non-binding legalization questions this year are slightly more liberal and pro-marijuana reform than the rest of the state, but for the most part seem to be fairly representative of opinions state-wide. It is safe to assume a solid majority of voters support the general idea of legalization.

The performance of the non-binding questions provides solid confirmation of a poll last year sponsored by MassCann/NORML, which at the time found 62 percent of voters in the state supported legalizing and regulating marijuana like alcohol.

When all the available data is taken into consideration it overwhelmingly indicates that if a reasonable marijuana legalization initiative had appeared on the Massachusetts ballot this year it likely would have passed. If a well-funded campaign puts a marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot in either 2014 or 2016 its stands a very good chance of winning.

 *A few precincts in Boston were excluded from analysis due to a lack of precincts level breakdown for Question 3