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Turnout not high for marijuana legalization push

Maybe it was too early for the legalization crowd.

Barely anyone showed up Tuesday for a 10 a.m. event outside the State House aimed at kicking off a signature drive for a proposed 2016 ballot question that would legalize marijuana for adult recreational use.

Two of the three state legislators slated to attend the launch for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts did not.

And, while political kickoffs in front of the golden-domed building are often packed with supporters, the crowd at this one — which included the ballot push’s campaign manager, communications director, and a few other backers — was sparse and far from fired up.


Jim Borghesani, the campaign’s communications director, acknowledged it “was difficult to reach out to a lot of people who we think will support the ballot” push.

“This early in the process, it’s difficult to assemble a crowd,” he said.

But he emphasized the objective of the event was to alert voters that public officials support the legalization effort and his group is confident it will put together a strong campaign and get its message out.

The campaign is supported by the Marijuana Policy Project, a well-funded national group. And advocates expect to gather the tens of thousands of signatures necessary to make the ballot, using volunteers and a paid signature-gathering firm, SpoonWorks.

State Representative Jay D. Livingstone, a Beacon Hill Democrat who lives near the State House and did show up, noted that strong majorities of Massachusetts voters approved measures that decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2008 and allowed its use for medical purposes in 2012.

State Representative David M. Rogers, a Cambridge Democrat, said his not showing up was “merely a scheduling conflict” and he “fully supports the initiative. Completely.”

State Senator William N. Brownsberger, the Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary and the other legislator slated to be at the Tuesday event, said later he continues to support legalization and will publicly make the case for it.


But the kickoff, the Belmont Democrat said, “it just wasn’t something that fit in my day.”

Another state ballot group, Bay State Repeal, is also working to put a marijuana legalization measure on the ’16 ballot.

Joshua Miller can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos and subscribe to his weekday e-mail update on politics at