Massachusetts voters this fall will decide three statewide ballot questions on medical marijuana, assisted suicide and whether to give independent repair shops access to data now closely guarded by carmakers.
Proponents had to deliver more than 11,000 signatures to Secretary of State William Galvin’s office by July 3 to secure a place on the ballot. All three will go before voters, said Brian McNiff, a Galvin spokesman.
A Supreme Judicial Court judge at the end of June also approved new language for the medical marijuana question after opponents successfully challenged its wording.
Originally, ballots would have said, “A yes vote would enact the proposed law eliminating state criminal and civil penalties related to the medical use of marijuana by patients meeting certain conditions.”
The new statement approved by Associate Justice Robert Cordy will go on to explain that patients would be able to get marijuana “produced and distributed by new state-regulated centers or, in specific hardship cases, to grow marijuana for their own use.”
The original wording did not make clear the initiative would allow up to 35 marijuana dispensaries in the state, said Heidi Heilman, president of the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance, which appealed the phrasing.
At least one, but no more than five centers would be allowed in each county.
Heilman said the alliance was thrilled the court “ruled to expose the details of this legislation.” Her group plans to campaign against the ballot question.
“This is about selling pot in our neighborhoods,” she said. “That’s the bottom line.”
The Committee for Compassionate Medicine, which filed the ballot question, also agrees with the new wording drafted by the attorney general’s office, said Jennifer Manley, a spokeswoman for the proponents.
It was important that the language make clear dispensaries would be regulated, she said.
“We had the benefit of learning from 17 other states and the District of Columbia,” she said, referring to other states that have adopted medical marijuana laws. “The hallmark of this initiative is state regulation.”
A summary of the ballot initiative says to qualify to use medical marijuana, patients would have to get a written certification from a doctor that they have a specific, debilitating medical condition, such as cancer, ALS or Parkinson’s disease.
Such patients could possess up to a 60-day supply of marijuana, as defined by the state Department of Public Health, “for their personal medical use,” the summary said.
The health department would register dispensaries and their employees and establish rules for them, “including cultivation and storage of marijuana only in enclosed, locked facilities.”
Patients who could not access a treatment center because of “financial hardship, physical inability to access reasonable transportation or distance” could register with the health department to grow their own plants.
The summary says the proposed law would not require doctors to authorize medical marijuana, nor force health insurers or government agencies to pay for it.
While proponents cite studies indicating marijuana can help patients manage chronic pain, muscle spasms or nausea, Heilman noted the proposed law is opposed by the Massachusetts Medical Society.
She argued the ballot question skips the usual review and approval of medications by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
While the proposed law includes fines and jail time for violations, Heilman also said it could be abused and ultimately make marijuana more available to young people.
“Death with Dignity”
The proposed “Death with Dignity” law would allow doctors to prescribe medication to terminally ill patients in order to end their lives, with a number of restrictions.
Patients would have to be determined capable of making and communicating their health care decisions, have at most six months to live and voluntarily express a wish to die on two occasions, 15 days apart, according to a summary of the ballot question.
While one of the petitioners is a doctor from Cambridge, the Massachusetts Medical Society opposes the ballot question. So do some groups representing people with disabilities, arguing the proposal could be abused and lacks enough safeguards.
“Right to Repair”
The so-called “Right to Repair” initiative would require vehicle manufacturers to make diagnostic and repair information and tools available for purchase by owners and independent repair shops.
Proponents say carmakers, who now make this information available only to certified dealers, are preventing independent repair shops from making often-routine repairs and forcing owners to get their vehicles fixed at dealerships.
The auto industry argues repair shops already have access to much of the information they need, and that the ballot question risks the theft of sensitive data. Automakers also say the law could lead to more substandard parts being used in repairs.