What a bummer: Marijuana question marred by errors

A woman exhales while smoking marijuana during the annual 420 marijuana rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, Wednesday, April 20, 2016. Cannabis possession is illegal in most countries under a 1925 treaty called the International Opium Convention. But just like the U.S., some nations either flout the treaty or don't enforce it. Legalization supporters consider pot possession either legal or tolerated in Argentina, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, the Czech Republic, India, Jamaica, Jordan, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Uruguay, Germany and the Netherlands. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Justin Tang/The Canadian Press via AP

Dude, pass the — Wite-Out!

The group pressing to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Massachusetts by referendum made a mistake on its ballot question.

Three, actually.



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The Massachusetts Constitution allows for fixes to proposed ballot questions, as long as the attorney general affirms they do “not materially change the substance of the measure.”

Still, officials and political operatives say it is extremely rare for a ballot question group to ask for such a change. Serious referenda tend to be rigorously vetted by lawyers who would catch such errors before being submitted.

So what were the mistakes? Laws often make reference to other sections of statute. And, three times, the proposed marijuana law refers to one of its own sections about authorizing marijuana accessories, when drafters actually meant to reference a section about legalizing personal use of the drug.

Jim Borghesani, communications director for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Massachusetts, said that in the final draft of the proposed ballot initiative, the sections were re-ordered and three of the corresponding section references were not revised.


He said the group would ask Attorney General Maura Healey to allow them to tweak the question in May, the timeframe for such a request.

The pro-marijuana effort, expected to garner enough signatures to make the November ballot, would legalize the drug for those 21 and older and allow retail sales beginning in January 2018.

No word on whether marijuana products will carry a warning: Focus on details may be among the first things to go.

Joshua Miller can be reached at