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Mass. voters likely to face four ballot questions this fall

Sally Vander Veer looked over drying buds in a special drying room at a marijuana dispensary in Denver in January.Bob Pearson for The Boston Globe/file 2016/Globe Freelance

Massachusetts voters are likely to face four ballot questions in November: one legalizing marijuana, one lifting the state cap on charter schools, one requiring all eggs in the state to come from cage-free hens, and one that could lead to a casino near Suffolk Downs.

Supporters of the questions needed to submit 10,792 signatures to the secretary of state’s office by Wednesday evening to get on the ballot for November.

Though the secretary of state’s office must finish counting and screening the signatures, each campaign submitted more than enough signatures, according to Brian McNiff, spokesman for the secretary of state.

“They appear to be in good shape,” McNiff said.

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Also on Wednesday, the Supreme Judicial Court cleared the way for the marijuana ballot question, which faced a challenge from opponents who claimed the question improperly combined two complicated subjects — the legalization of marijuana and the regulation of medical marijuana treatment centers — into a single question. The court rejected that claim but changed the original wording of the question to clearly indicate that if the marijuana industry is launched, it would be able to sell “edible products” in addition to products for smoking.

The state’s highest court also ruled Wednesday that the cage-free egg question can appear on the ballot, dismissing opponents who argued that the wording didn’t follow the state Constitution’s requirements for initiative petitions.

The marijuana proposal garnered more than 16,000 signatures certified by cities and towns across the state, according to William Luzier, manager of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol. Opponents to the ballot question — which would allow anyone 21 years or older to buy and home-grow marijuana, among other measures — include Governor Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo.

“We believe a significant amount of revenue will be generated in Massachusetts, and it’s really about time we took this commerce away from criminals and put it in the hands of legitimate business,” Luzier said, adding that the group now plans to ramp up its efforts to educate the public and meet with town committees about the proposal.

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The proposal allowing for the creation or expansion of 12 charter schools in the state per year received more than 20,000 certified signatures, according to Eileen O’Connor, a spokeswoman for Great Schools Massachusetts, a coalition supporting the ballot question. Opponents have long argued that creating more charter schools drains support away from traditional public schools — a position supporters reject.

“Charter schools are public schools and therefore are entitled to public dollars. The dollars follow the student,” O’Connor said. “The arguments being made about charter schools taking money away from districts is simply untrue, and we look forward to putting forward the real facts around charter schools.”

People are also expected to get a chance to vote on a proposal that would require, starting in 2022, state farms and businesses that produce and sell eggs, pork, and veal to do so under what advocates call humane conditions. That includes eggs only from cage-free hens, pork from pigs not raised in tight crates, and veal from calves not raised in small enclosures. The proposal received more than 40,000 certified signatures, according to Stephanie Harris, Massachusetts state director for the Humane Society, a group backing the ballot question.

Harris said more than 1,000 volunteers helped to gather signatures over the course of the drive.

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The final ballot question would allow for a second slots parlor in Massachusetts, a proposal backed by developer Eugene McCain that could lead to a casino near Suffolk Downs. The state allowed three casinos and one slots parlor under the 2011 law.

McCain did not respond to a request for comment, but McNiff confirmed the proposal had a surplus of signatures Wednesday afternoon.

Last week, the SJC struck down a proposed ballot question that would have derailed the Common Core curriculum in Massachusetts.


Meg Bernhard can be reached at meg.bernhard@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meg_bernhard.