Public Can Attend Panel’s Deliberations on Ballot Measure for Legalizing Marijuana

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A 20-person voter panel will participate in the pilot program of the Massachusetts Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR,) Aug. 25 to 28 at The Atrium School in Watertown, when the group will consider all aspects of Question 4, the marijuana legalization ballot question, organizers announced.

During the deliberations, voter participants will talk with advocates on both sides of the ballot question under review as well as neutral experts. The results of the deliberations will be captured in a Citizens’ Statement that includes key findings, as well as arguments for and against the passage of the initiative. Trained moderators will guide the group.

On July 12, the CIR Advisory Board selected the regulation and taxation of marijuana ballot question for voters to review. That same day, the 20-member citizen panel was selected from among the respondents to mailers sent to 10,000 randomly-selected Massachusetts voters. An objective, scientific method was employed to ensure the panel mirrors the demographics of the state’s electorate.

The panel includes women and men from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, Democrats, Republicans and unenrolled voters in the same proportions as the electorate as a whole. The panelists represent every congressional district and live in urban areas and small towns. The oldest panelist, at 91, is 70 years older than the youngest, and some have less than a high school education, while others have graduate degrees.

Both the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and the Campaign for a Safe & Healthy Massachusetts will be full participants in the deliberations and will appear before the citizen panel three times to present their arguments and answer questions.

“Our goal with the CIR pilot project is to present as much information as possible to a group of engaged voters who represent the voter base of our state,” said State Representative Jonathan Hecht, local sponsor of the CIR pilot project. “With the participation of the campaigns on both sides of the issue, as well as nationally-recognized experts, we believe that the voter panel will have a wealth of knowledge from which to draft a citizens’ statement that will aid voters in making an informed decision.”

The seven participating experts bring deep knowledge and experience from a wide range of disciplines pertaining to marijuana policy and will serve as a balanced resource for the citizen panelists, including two officials from Colorado who have direct knowledge of the implementation of that state’s marijuana legalization initiative.

In an effort to provide more clarity for voters surrounding a ballot question, the Massachusetts CIR pilot project was launched by State Representative Jonathan Hecht, in partnership with Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life and Healthy Democracy, the organization that pioneered CIR in Oregon.

The CIR proceedings are open to the public and will be held at the Atrium School, 69 Grove Street in Watertown, from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 25, and from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 26 to 28. A detailed schedule of the deliberations is available here:

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