Campaign 2016: RI & Mass Ballot Questions

When voters head to the polls in Rhode Island and Massachusetts on Nov. 8, 2016, they will decide on more than just the presidential and local races. Each state has several questions on the ballot. To help you decide, here’s a breakdown of each of the questions – including the supporting and opposing arguments for them. Click here for Massachusetts questions »

Rhode Island Ballot Questionsapprove-reject-logo

Ballot Question Stories | Campaign 2016 Coverage



State-operated casino gaming in Tiverton

Text on the ballot (Question #1):tiverton casino

“Shall an act be approved which would authorize a facility owned by Twin River-Tiverton, LLC, located in the Town of Tiverton at the intersection of William S. Canning Boulevard and Stafford Road, to be licensed as a pari-mutuel facility and offer state-operated video-lottery games and state-operated casino gaming, such as table games?

In plain English (Question #1):

When Rhode Island voters cast their ballots in November, they’ll have to decide whether or not they want a new casino to be built in Tiverton. If the question is approved by voters, Newport Grand will be moved to a new facility 400 feet from the Massachusetts border. The measure will need approval on a statewide and local level to move forward.

Supporting argument:

Gaming is Rhode Island’s third-largest source of revenue, and Twin River-Tiverton will provide approximately $50 million per year to the state’s general fund. This funding may be used to support our schools, repair our roads, and improve public safety – all without raising taxes.yes-tiverton-casino

Rhode Island’s economy continues to recover following the recession, and our statewide unemployment rate is still above the national average. Rhode Island casinos currently employ over 2,000 people in well-paying jobs in a variety of positions. Twin River-Tiverton will provide approximately 550-600 jobs; full-time employees at the casino will receive an average annual compensation including benefits of more than $56,000.

Approval of a casino in Tiverton will help offset state revenue lost to new and existing casinos in Massachusetts.”

From “Yes on the Tiverton Casino”

Opposing argument:

Rhode Island opened the door to gaming years ago based on the promise of a new revenue stream to bolster a faltering economy and fund badly needed investments in infrastructure. Unfortunately, the Ocean State has since become dependent on a revenue source widely known to be on the decline. Behaving like an addict, the state is in a panic to secure its next fix, and bad judgment and loss of dignity are usually the tell-tale signs that an addiction has gone too

Perhaps the state became too comfortable with the revenues generated by what is fast becoming a “soft” industry. Or maybe they were in denial about the signs of a new generation’s loss of interest and the mounting competitive pressures. Either way, Rhode Island’s failure to develop more viable and sustainable ways to spark the local economy resulted in its current position between the proverbial rock and hard place.

So, here we sit in 2016, and the state is now engaged in a new kind of drug war to feed its addiction. This war isn’t fought between drug lords and enforcement agents, though. The battle is between jurisdictions and community members, but Little Rhody isn’t the only one with a gambling problem.

-From “No Tiverton Casino”

RELATED: Tiverton casino needs state, local approval »

Related Websites:

Supporter: Yes Tiverton Casino »   | Opposition: No Tiverton Casino »


Authorization to:

Amend state constitution

Text on the ballot:

“Approval of the amendments to Section 8 of Article III and Section 5 of Article VI of the Rhode Island Constitution set forth above will restore the jurisdiction of the ethics commission over members of the General Assembly”

In plain English:

Rhode Island State HouseAccording to BallotPedia, a “yes” vote supports providing the Rhode Island Ethics Commission with authority to investigate alleged misconduct regarding legislative activities.

A “no” vote opposes providing the Rhode Island Ethics Commission with authority to investigate alleged misconduct regarding legislative activities, thereby continuing to grant legislators immunity from investigation of legislative acts under the Speech in Debate Clause of the Rhode Island Constitution.

Currently, the Rhode Island Ethics Commission cannot investigate or prosecute legislators for things pertaining to their legislative activities. This inability of the Ethics Commission to investigate or prosecute legislative activities was upheld during a court case. The Supreme Court noted that the constitution could be changed to grant such an ability. Question 2 was designed to provide the Ethics Commission with the authority to investigate and prosecute legislative activities. Question 2 was also designed to require 2/3 majority vote to enact any rules and regulations.

Supporting argument:

In 1986, Rhode Islanders voted to amend the state constitution and establish an ethics commission that had authority to investigate and sanction all elected officials and public employees for conflicts of interest. In 2009 the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that an older piece of the constitution prevents the ethics commission from investigating and sanctioning state lawmakers for conflicts involving legislation.

In order for the Ethics Commission to have full oversight over members of the General Assembly, the state constitution has to be changed.”

Opposing argument: No organized effort to fight the ethics question has emerged so far, though it has some high-profile individual opponents, including House Minority Leader Brian Newberry. “I think people have a right under the First Amendment to speak their minds,” he told Providence Business News last month. “I don’t think people should be restricted in what they say by an ethics bill.”    

The Rhode Island American Civile Liberties Union also said it opposes Question 2.

“Because this amendment, though clearly well-intentioned, has the potential to cause great mischief and chill legislative speech and legislator-constituent relations, the ACLU opposes Question 2.”

-RI ACLU Website

RELATED: Poll has 78% in RI backing Question 2 » | Voters to consider restoring Ethics Commission authority over lawmakers »

Supporters of Ballot Question: | Common Cause RI | Operation Clean Government  



Authorization to:

Borrow money (taxpayer-backed debt)

How much money:

$27 million (excludes interest)

Official name of bonds:

Rhode Island Veterans Home Bonds

Text on the ballot:

“For the construction of a new Veterans Home and renovations of existing facilities.”

In plain English:

Question 3 was designed to use $27,000,000 to fund the construction of and to maintain existing facilities. Since 1952, Rhode Island voters have decided on and approved two other bond issues relating to veterans homes specifically.

Supporting argument:

Opposing argument: There does not appear to be organized opposition to this bond question.


iStock chalkboard money school budget genericAuthorization to:

Borrow money (taxpayer-backed debt)

How much money:

$45.5 million (excludes interest)

Official name of bonds:

“Leveraging Higher Education to Create 21st Century Jobs Bonds”

Text on the ballot:

“To make capital investments in higher education-related projects, to be allocated as follows:

(a) University of Rhode Island College of Engineering $25,500,000

(b) University of Rhode Island Affiliated Innovation Campus Program $20,000,000

In plain English:

If approved on November 8, the College of Engineering at URI would be expanded and an innovation campus would be created. $25.5 million would go to renovating Bliss Hall, one of University of Rhode Island College of Engineering’s oldest buildings, and comprehensively updating other existing buildings. The other $20 million would go to building at least one innovation campus involving business collaborations with the University of Rhode Island. The project is priced at $45.5 million, but after interest it could be nearly $73 million.

Supporting argument:

Approving Question 4 will attract businesses and create the high-paying, high-skilled jobs Rhode Island needs by authorizing $45.5 million in bonds to expand the University of Rhode Island’s College of Engineering and create a URI-affiliated innovation campus program that will pair cutting edge research with private sector investments to create the jobs of the future.Vote Yes on 4

Voting Yes on Question 4 is the Right Choice for Rhode Island:

  • More than 96 percent of students who graduate from the URI College of Engineering are employed in the high-paying, high-skilled jobs Rhode Island needs. Approving Question 4 will expand this program and help attract more high-tech businesses to Rhode Island.
  • A URI-affiliated Innovation Campus will work with leading institutions and the private sector to create partnerships that will turn groundbreaking research into the innovative jobs of the future.
  • Voting yes on 4 will create construction jobs and permanent high paying jobs. Voting yes will put Rhode Islanders back to work while making the necessary investments to prepare our students for the jobs of the future.”

Opposing argument:

Not only does this bond increase Rhode Islanders’ debt burden, but it also puts taxpayers, the state government, and college students in bed with private, for-profit companies. The money wouldn’t just invest in new buildings, but it would also fund a new program that helps private corporations use public resources to develop “products, services, and businesses.”

-RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity

Supporting Website:  Yes on 4 RI »   | Opposition Website: RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity »


Port of Davisville - Quonset Business ParkAuthorization to:

Borrow money (taxpayer-backed debt)

How much money:

$70 million (excludes interest)

Official name of bonds:

“Port Infrastructure Bonds”

Text on the ballot:

“For port infrastructure projects, to be allocated as follows:

(a) Port of Davisville Infrastructure at Quonset $50,000,000

(b) Port of Providence Infrastructure $20,000,000 build and renovate mass transit hubs, notably so that bus traffic in Providence could move out of Kennedy Plaza to the area around the Amtrak train station along with another location in the Jewelry District.”

In plain English:

Question 5 was designed to issue $70,000,000 in general obligation bonds, of which $50 million would go toward infrastructure modernization of Port of Davisville. The other $20 million would go toward the acquisition of up to 25 acres of land located between Allens Avenue in the City of Providence and the Providence River and any infrastructure improvements associated with the acquisition

Supporting argument:

At Quonset’s Port of Davisville, one of North America’s leading auto importers, the proposal will modernize and repair a key pier. The pier, which is 60 years old, was originally built to last 50 years.

Further up the Bay, the plan will allow the Port of Providence’s ProvPort to expand operations. ProvPort currently maintains and manages port operations for the City of Providence, but due to their success, they have now run out of space and are currently unable to attract new tenants.

The $70 million investment will lead to the creation of hundreds of new jobs at both ports and millions in tax revenue for the State of Rhode Island. The plan will also allow Rhode Island to keep pace with Massachusetts and Connecticut who are investing a combined $1.3 billion in their maritime infrastructure.

The proposed improvements would protect existing jobs, pave the way for over a thousand more, and generate millions in additional tax revenue.”

-RI Ports Coalition

Opposing argument:

This new debt would not only move business costs off of the private businesses that use the ports in Quonset and Providence, but it would also hand 25 acres of Providence real estate over to the government and a non-profit company acting in its behalf.”

-RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity

Supporting Website: RI Ports Coalition »  | Opposition Website: RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity »


(Photo Credit: RI Parks, Colt State Park)
(Photo Credit: RI Parks, Colt State Park)

Authorization to:

Borrow money (taxpayer-backed debt)

How much money:

$35 million (excludes interest)

Official name of bonds:

“Green Economy Bonds”

Text on the ballot:

“For environmental and recreational purposes, to be allocated as follows:

(a) Historic State Park Development Program $4,000,000

(b) State Land Acquisition Program $4,000,000

(c) State Bikeway Development Program $10,000,000

(d) Brownfield Remediation and Economic Development $5,000,000

(e) Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program $3,000,000

(f) Local Recreation Development Matching Grant Program $5,000,000

(g) Local Land Acquisition Matching Grant Program $4,000,000″

In plain English:

If approved, Question 6 would go toward several different projects, including making capital improvements at several state parks; designing and constructing bikeways; brownfield remediation projects; providing matching grants to municipalities, local land trusts and nonprofit organizations that wish to acquire open space.

Supporting argument:

Rhode Island’s greatest strength is our natural assets — Narragansett Bay, the rivers, the coast, the ponds, and the surrounding lands distinguish Rhode Island and make it great. The 2016 Green Economy Bond invests $35 million in protecting our land and water and building healthy communities. By investing in our environment, we can:yes-on-6

Protect clean water and open space to enhance quality of life in communities

  • Protects water quality in Narragansett Bay
  • Conserves new open space and farmland
  • Restores river banks to prevent flooding
  • Preserves state and municipal park land

Strengthen the  economy by bolstering tourism & recreation

  • Creates new jobs for Rhode Islanders
  • Expands the statewide bike path network
  • Reduces the number of beach closure days
  • Ensures the high quality of local seafood”

-Yes On 6 RI Website

Opposing argument:

Of all the bonds on the ballot, this one teaches most clearly the lesson that bonds are not just borrowing for infrastructure, but are policy decisions. Of the total, $8,000,000 will go toward the direct government purchase of land or property rights, some of it for resale or lease at heavy discounts to preferred individuals and businesses. When the Center began investigating the new practice of the state’s purchasing farmland, officials pointed to a bond on the 2014 ballot that had authorized such action. These bonds allow the state government to buy up even more open space, recreation land, and farmland while also creating a windfall for private construction companies and non-profits.”

-RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity

Supporting Website:  Yes On 6 RI »   | Opposition Website: RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity »


housingAuthorization to:

Borrow money (taxpayer-backed debt)

How much money:

$50 million (excludes interest)

Official name of bonds:

“Housing Opportunity Bonds”

Text on the ballot:

“For affordable housing, urban revitalization, and blight remediation, to be allocated as follows:

(a) Affordable Housing Development $40,000,000

(b) Urban Revitalization and Blight Remediation $10,000,000″

In plain English:

If approved, Question 7 would allow the state to float bonds to create affordable housing opportunity programs and for improving properties that need to be revitalized, including residential and commercial properties, as well as public and community spaces.

Supporting argument:

A safe affordable place to call home is the American dream and the bedrock of our neighborhoods and communities. Unfortunately, with some of the highest housing costs in the nation too many Rhode Island families, seniors, and veterans are struggling to find an affordable home or apartment, while also making ends meet.Vote Yes On 7

We can address this issue that’s holding back our economy by investing in housing opportunities for all Rhode Islanders. On November 8th, voting Yes on Question 7 will approve a $50 million Housing Opportunity bond for the construction of affordable homes and apartments across Rhode Island, and to help our cities and towns revitalize blighted and foreclosed properties.”

-Vote Yes on 7 Website

Opposing argument:

These bonds would feed what has become an affordable housing industry in Rhode Island, with overlapping interests of construction companies, non-profits, politicians, and government agents. Burdening Rhode Islanders with yet more unaffordable debt is not the way to help us pay our housing bills.”

-RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity

Supporting Website: Yes ON 7 RI »  | Opposition Website: RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity »

Massachusetts Ballot Questions


slot machine genericAuthorization to:

Issue another slots parlor license

Text on the ballot:

This proposed law would allow the state Gaming Commission to issue one additional category 2 license, which would permit operation of a gaming establishment with no table games and not more than 1,250 slot machines.
The proposed law would authorize the Commission to request applications for the additional license to be granted to a gaming establishment located on property that is (i) at least four acres in size; (ii) adjacent to and within 1,500 feet of a race track, including the track’s additional facilities, such as the track, grounds, paddocks, barns, auditorium, amphitheatre, and bleachers; (iii) where a horse racing meeting may physically be held; (iv) where a horse racing meeting shall have been hosted; and (v) not separated from the race track by a highway or railway.

In plain English:

A YES VOTE would permit the state Gaming Commission to license one additional slot-machine gaming establishment at a location that meets certain conditions specified in the law.

A NO VOTE would make no change in current laws regarding gaming.

According to, The Massachusetts Expanded Gaming Act of 2011 approved up to three resort casinos and one slots parlor spread across the state. Question 1 would give the Massachusetts Gaming Commission the ability to issue an additional slots-only license, also known as a category 2 license, to an establishment or proposed establishment that is attached to a horse-racing facility. Plainridge Park Casino holds the only slots parlor license. The targeted location for the additional parlor is Suffolk Downs. MGM Springfield and Wynn Boston Harbor hold the resort casino licenses. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission can issue one more casino license. The recipient must be located in the southeastern part of the state.

Supporting argument:

The Yes on 1 campaign website listed the following arguments in support of Question 1:

  • Over $80 Million Dollars in new Revenue to the State per year
  • $12 Million Dollars to support Horse Racing in Massachusetts
  • 1000’s of new jobs both Direct and Indirect for Massachusett citizens
  • $5 million dollars in guaranteed new revenue to the Host City

post-default-image-v2Voting YES allows one additional slots parlor in Massachusetts, providing millions of dollars to Massachusetts communities and creating thousands of jobs. In 2013 alone, Massachusetts residents who played at neighboring state gaming facilities gave those states over $240 Million that could have stayed in Massachusetts. Under the Gaming Law, nearly half the revenue collected benefits all Massachusetts residents. Over the past year, the existing slots parlor contributed over $60 million for Massachusetts communities, plus additional funds paid to the host-community. (The Gaming Law ensures that a slots parlor will only be licensed in a community that votes for it.) About $1 of every $5 collected goes to our State’s horse racing industry, sustaining jobs at racetracks and breeding farms. A second slots parlor, together with the existing parlor, will assure that the long tradition of horse racing in Massachusetts survives while bringing thousands of new jobs to Massachusetts.”

-Massachusetts 2016 Voter Guide

Opposing argument:

Legalized casino gambling in the Commonwealth is too new and unproven to expand at this time.

  • Only one slot parlor has opened in Massachusetts, and it is significantly underperforming.Committee for Committee for Sustainable & Responsible Economic Development
  • Five casinos are expected to open in Massachusetts by 2019. The Wall Street Journal warns that New England already has

more casinos than the market wants or needs.

  • This ballot question was written by one casino developer, for one purpose: his own financial gain. It disrupts the process and

limits established by the Legislature to protect communities and existing businesses.

  • Proponents of the ‘Act Relative to Gaming’ have traveled across the globe to exploit the Commonwealth and send a message to

other casino developers – they can come to Massachusetts and do the same.

Vote “No” to postpone the question of gambling expansion until a review of the costs and benefits of existing Massachusetts gaming establishments is completed.”

-Massachusetts 2016 Voter Guide

Suporting Website: Yes To 1 »  | Opposition Website: Vote No On 1 »



Authorization to: 

Expand charter schools in Massachusetts

Text on the ballot:

Charter Schools spelled out in colorful play letters -- education concept

This proposed law would allow the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to approve up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansions in existing charter schools each year. Approvals under this law could expand statewide charter school enrollment by up to 1% of the total statewide public school enrollment each year. New charters and enrollment expansions approved under this law would be exempt from existing limits on the number of charter schools, the number of students enrolled in them, and the amount of local school districts’ spending allocated to them.

If the Board received more than 12 applications in a single year from qualified applicants, then the proposed law would require it to give priority to proposed charter schools or enrollment expansions in districts where student performance on statewide assessments is in the bottom 25% of all districts in the previous two years and where demonstrated parent demand for additional public school options is greatest.

New charter schools and enrollment expansions approved under this proposed law would be subject to the same approval standards as other charter schools, and to recruitment, retention, and multilingual outreach requirements that currently apply to some charter schools. Schools authorized under this law would be subject to annual performance reviews according to standards established by the Board.

The proposed law would take effect on January 1, 2017.

In plain English:

Currently, Massachusetts law limits the number of charter schools in the state to 120.

A YES VOTE would allow for up to 12 approvals each year of either new charter schools or expanded enrollments in existing charter schools, but not to exceed 1% of the statewide public school enrollment.

A NO VOTE would make no change in current laws relative to charter schools and keep the number capped at 120.

Supporting argument:

A YES vote on Question 2 gives parents the right to choose the best public schools for their children.
Charter schools are PUBLIC schools open to all children. They offer longer school days and more individual attention, and have a proven record of closing the achievement gap for kids trapped in failing school districts.

Today, almost 33,000 children are stuck on waiting lists for public charter schools because of the legislature’s arbitrary cap on enrollment. Voting YES would give more children the opportunity to attend these great public schools — especially in the state’s lowest-performing school districts.

Voting YES does not harm local school districts. Cities and towns with new public charter schools will receive MORE state education aid if Question 2 passes. Charter growth would happen gradually; new public charter schools must be approved by the State Board of Education and are subject to rigorous and frequent performance reviews.”

-Great Schools Massachusetts (2016 Massachusetts Voter Guide)

Opposing argument:

Every time a new charter school opens or expands, it takes funding away from the public schools in that district. This year alone, charter schools will take more than $400 million from already-underfunded Massachusetts public schools. And charter schools are not accountable to the local taxpayers who fund them.
Under this proposal, the number of charter schools in Massachusetts would nearly triple in just 10 years, costing local public school districts more than $1 billion a year.

If some public schools are falling short, we should fix them, not take money away and give it to privately-run charters. We need to support schools that serve all children. That means investing in areas such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), arts and music, and Pre-K, not diverting even more resources to charters, which educate just four percent of students. Save Our Public Schools. Vote NO on 2.”

-Campaign to Save Our Public Schools (2016 Massachusetts Voter Guide)

RELATED: Mass voters to decide on expanding charter schools »

Supporting Website: Greater Schools Massachusetts » | Opposition Website: Save Our Public Schools »


Authorization to:

Implement law regulating how farm animals are kept.

Text on the ballot:

istock-pigThis proposed law would prohibit any farm owner or operator from knowingly confining any breeding pig, calf raised for veal, or egg-laying hen in a way that prevents the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending its limbs, or turning around freely. The proposed law would also prohibit any business owner or operator in Massachusetts from selling whole eggs intended for human consumption or any uncooked cut of veal or pork if the business owner or operator knows or should know that the hen, breeding pig, or veal calf that produced these products was confined in a manner prohibited by the proposed law. The proposed law would exempt sales of food products that combine veal or pork with other products, including soups, sandwiches, pizzas, hotdogs, or similar processed or prepared food items.

The proposed law’s confinement prohibitions would not apply during transportation; state and county fair exhibitions; 4-H programs; slaughter in compliance with applicable laws and regulations; medical research; veterinary exams, testing, treatment and operation if performed under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian; five days prior to a pregnant pig’s expected date of giving birth; any day that pig is nursing piglets; and for temporary periods for animal husbandry purposes not to exceed six hours in any twenty-four hour period.

The proposed law would create a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for each violation and would give the Attorney General the exclusive authority to enforce the law, and to issue regulations to implement it. As a defense to enforcement proceedings, the proposed law would allow a business owner or operator to rely in good faith upon a written certification or guarantee of compliance by a supplier.

The proposed law would be in addition to any other animal welfare laws and would not prohibit stricter local laws.

The proposed law would take effect on January 1, 2022. The proposed law states that if any of its parts were declared invalid, the other parts would stay in effect.

In plain English:

A YES VOTE would prohibit any confinement of pigs, calves, and hens that prevents them from lying down, standing up, fully extending their limbs, or turning around freely.

A NO VOTE would make no change in current laws relative to the keeping of farm animals.

Supporting argument:

A YES vote prevents cruel treatment of animals in Massachusetts by ending the practice of cramming farm animals into cages so small they can’t turn around or stretch their limbs, and will remove inhumane and unsafe products from the Massachusetts marketplace.

Endorsed by the MSPCA, Animal Rescue League of Boston, The Humane Society of the United States, and 400 Massachusetts veterinarians because no animal should be immobilized in a cramped cage.

Endorsed by the Center for Food Safety and Consumer Federation of America because cage confinement increases food safety risks, and a YES vote protects Massachusetts consumers.

Endorsed by Massachusetts family farmers and the United Farm Workers because proper treatment of animals is better for farmers. From McDonald’s to Walmart, retailers are switching to cage-free eggs—the right thing to do at the right cost.

Vote YES. Protect consumers. Prevent animal cruelty.

-Citizens for Farm Animal Protection (2016 Voters Guide)

Opposing argument:

A NO vote is necessary to protect Massachusetts consumers’ right to choose from the variety of healthy foods available for purchase today.

Question 3 proposes to ban the sale of any veal, pork, and eggs from any state unless produced according to the wishes of the ballot promoters. A recent study undertaken at Cornell University estimates the cost to consumers–just on eggs—would be $70 a year for a family of five.

This study also notes that an increase in food prices “disproportionately harms lower income households” and can impact their ability to maintain a “healthy and adequate diet.”

Let the free marketplace respond to consumer concerns. The veal industry plans to be completely phased out of veal crates by the end of 2017. 175 food suppliers have already pledged to switch to cage free eggs. Others will follow.

This proposed government mandate is neither necessary nor wise.

-New England Brown Egg Council (2016 Voters Guide)

Supporting Website: Citizens for Farm Animals » | Opposition Website: New England Brown Egg »


Authorization to:

Legalize recreational use and production of marijuana

Text on the ballot:

MarijuanaThe proposed law would permit the possession, use, distribution, and cultivation of marijuana in limited amounts by persons age 21 and older and would remove criminal penalties for such activities. It would provide for the regulation of commerce in marijuana, marijuana accessories, and marijuana products and for the taxation of proceeds from sales of these items.

The proposed law would authorize persons at least 21 years old to possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside of their residences; possess up to ten ounces of marijuana inside their residences; grow up to six marijuana plants in their residences; give one ounce or less of marijuana to a person at least 21 years old without payment; possess, produce or transfer hemp; or make or transfer items related to marijuana use, storage, cultivation, or processing.

The measure would create a Cannabis Control Commission of three members appointed by the state Treasurer which would generally administer the law governing marijuana use and distribution, promulgate regulations, and be responsible for the licensing of marijuana commercial establishments. The proposed law would also create a Cannabis Advisory Board of fifteen members appointed by the Governor. The Cannabis Control Commission would adopt regulations governing licensing qualifications; security; record keeping; health and safety standards; packaging and labeling; testing; advertising and displays; required inspections; and such other matters as the Commission considers appropriate. The records of the Commission would be public records.
The proposed law would authorize cities and towns to adopt reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of operating marijuana businesses and to limit the number of marijuana establishments in their communities. A city or town could hold a local vote to determine whether to permit the selling of marijuana and marijuana products for consumption on the premises at commercial establishments.

The proceeds of retail sales of marijuana and marijuana products would be subject to the state sales tax and an additional excise tax of 3.75%. A city or town could impose a separate tax of up to 2%. Revenue received from the additional state excise tax or from license application fees and civil penalties for violations of this law would be deposited in a Marijuana Regulation Fund and would be used subject to appropriation for administration of the proposed law.

Marijuana-related activities authorized under this proposed law could not be a basis for adverse orders in child welfare cases absent clear and convincing evidence that such activities had created an unreasonable danger to the safety of a minor child.

The proposed law would not affect existing law regarding medical marijuana treatment centers or the operation of motor vehicles while under the influence. It would permit property owners to prohibit the use, sale, or production of marijuana on their premises (with an exception that landlords cannot prohibit consumption by tenants of marijuana by means other than by smoking); and would permit employers to prohibit the consumption of marijuana by employees in the workplace. State and local governments could continue to restrict uses in public buildings or at or near schools. Supplying marijuana to persons under age 21 would be unlawful.

The proposed law would take effect on December 15, 2016.

In plain English:

Voters would decide if Massachusetts would become the fifth state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in limited amounts.

A YES VOTE would allow persons 21 and older to possess, use, and transfer marijuana and products containing marijuana concentrate (including edible products) and to cultivate marijuana, all in limited amounts, and would provide for the regulation and taxation of commercial sale of marijuana and marijuana products.

A NO VOTE would make no change in current laws relative to marijuana.

Supporting argument:

Law enforcement veterans support this initiative because it replaces the current unregulated marijuana market, controlled by drug dealers, with a tightly regulated system controlled by state and local authorities. Passing this measure will allow local law enforcement to shift resources and focus to serious and violent crimes.Yes on 4: Tax + Regulate Marijuana in Massachusetts

The initiative includes strict regulations for business licensing, product testing, labeling and packaging, providing many more consumer safeguards than exist now. Marketing to minors is strictly prohibited, as is public use and driving under the influence.

Local cities and towns can limit or ban marijuana businesses, and will govern operating hours, locations, and signage.

Taxing marijuana will generate an estimated $100 million in annual revenue for state and local governments.
Regulation and taxation is working in Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon, generating millions of dollars for education, infrastructure and more. Massachusetts can improve on the regulatory standards already in place and working elsewhere.

-Yes On 4 (2016 Voters Guide)

Opposing argument:

Vote “NO” on creating a billion-dollar commercial marijuana industry that, just like Big Tobacco, would make millions on the backs of our communities, compromise health and safety, and harm kids.Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts
Vote “NO” because this measure:

  • Allows the sale and marketing of highly-potent marijuana edibles like candy, cookies, gummy bears, and soda that are attractive to young people and can lead to accidental overdose by kids and pets.
  • Allows people to “home grow” thousands of dollars’ worth of marijuana, even if neighbors object.
  • Severely restricts the ability of cities and towns to control the number of marijuana retailers entering communities and allows pot shops to locate near preschools and playgrounds.
  • Ignores the deadly opioid epidemic and the impact legalized pot will have on overall drug use.

This legalization scheme would force Massachusetts into the commercial marijuana industry when communities across Colorado, the first state to legalize, are trying to get out.

-The Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts (2016 Massachusetts Voters Guide)

RELATED: Voters fired up on both sides of Mass. marijuana debate »

Supporting Website: Yes on 4: Regulate Massachusetts »  | Opposition Websites:  Vote No on 4: Safe and Health MA »

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