A group of Massachusetts residents will review the marijuana ballot question and come up with a statement on the pros and cons of the measure ahead of the November election. The Citizens’ Initiative Review pilot was sponsored by Watertown State Rep. Jonathan Hecht.
On July 12, a bipartisan advisory board, which includes former Democratic Governor Michael Dukakis and two high-ranking Republican legislators, unanimously selected the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act as the question to be considered by 20 Bay State voters during deliberations in August.
“We are grateful to our advisory board for their time and insights while selecting the ballot question that will be the focus of the Citizens’ Initiative Review process,” said Hecht. “I look forward to reading the results of the citizen panelists’ deliberations in August and hope that this effort will provide voters across the Commonwealth with insightful, nonpartisan information to aid in their consideration of an important issue.”
The voters will meet at the Atrium School in Watertown from August 25 to 28 and hear from advocates on both sides of the ballot question under review, as well as neutral experts. The panel will be guided by trained moderators, and the results of the deliberations will be put into a Citizens’ Statement that includes key findings, as well as arguments for and against the passage of the initiative, according to an announcement about the effort.
The panel’s statement of findings to be included in the official election guide.
Panel members were selected through a process that started in June when 10,000 randomly selected voters were mailed information and questionnaires inviting them to participate in the process. The 20 members were chosen from the pool of respondents based on demographic information.
The CIR pilot was created after Rep. Hecht filed legislation to establish system in Massachusetts. While the bill was tabled for this legislative session, Hecht and his partners are implementing the pilot to test whether the CIR system proves effective in the Commonwealth, according to the announcement. The CIR system has been enacted in Oregon, and piloted in Colorado and Arizona.
The CIR Advisory board also considered using the ballot questions on farm animal confinement and access to charter schools, but ultimately selecting the marijuana question for review because of its complexity and the strong public interest surrounding the ballot measure, the announcement said.
The CIR Massachusetts Advisory Board is made up of: Alan Solomont, dean of Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life and former U.S. Ambassador to Spain and Andorra; Archon Fung, academic dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; Phil Johnston, former chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party; Michael Dukakis, former Massachusetts governor; Sen. Vinny deMacedo, ranking minority member of the Senate Ways & Means Committee; Rep. Brad Hill, assistant minority leader; Rachael Cobb, MassVOTE board member and professor of government at Suffolk University; Patrick Field, managing director of the Consensus Building Institute; and George Pillsbury, MassVOTE board chair.
For more information on the Massachusetts CIR pilot project, visit www.CIRmass2016.org. More information on the CIR concept is available on the Healthy Democracy website. More information on Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life is available at on the school’s website.