MA to Vote on Pot & Factory Farming Laws

     (CN) — The highest court in Massachusetts cleared the way for two voter initiatives on the November ballot that seek to legalize the limited cultivation of marijuana and prohibit animal cruelty on factory farms.
     Opponents of the initiatives had filed separate lawsuits in Suffolk County this past April after Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey certified the petitions for inclusion on the ballot.
     The pot proposal, filed in August 2015, would legalize the production and distribution of marijuana and products containing its concentrate, including edible products, in the commonwealth.
     It would also legalize the purchase and possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana, not more than 5 grams of which may be in the form of concentrate, and the possession of up to 10 ounces of marijuana, as well as up to six plants, in one’s home.
     Sales of marijuana to anyone under 21 would be illegal in Massachusetts under the proposed law.
     Healey received the other petition in August 2015 as well. It would prohibit the confinement of egg-laying hens, calves raised for veal, and breeding pigs on a commercial farm “in a cruel manner” — i.e., where they cannot lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs, or turn around freely.
     The proposed act would also bar the sale of eggs and meat made under those conditions.
     Separate opinions from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on July 6 say Healey properly certified each petition.
     Opponents of the pot proposal — 122 voters led by Josephine Hensley and Matthew Allen — failed to show that the petition contained two unrelated subjects: the legalization of marijuana and a change in the restrictions on marijuana-treatment centers.
     “The possible participation of medical marijuana treatment centers in the commercial distribution of marijuana is adequately related to this over-all detailed plan,” Chief Judge Ralph Gants wrote for the seven-judge panel.
     Gants did, however, voice disappointment with Healey’s failure to include a fair and neutral statement in the summary that will appear on the ballot.
     The summary should have specified “that marijuana products under the proposed act include, among other things, food and drink items that contain marijuana or marijuana concentrate to ensure that the electorate understands that ‘marijuana products’ include edible products,” according to the 39-page ruling.
     Despite the omission, Gants did find the summary fair.
     The risk of misleading voters is not “so substantial in this case as to render the summary constitutionally inadequate,” he wrote.
     “As to the title, we agree with the Allen plaintiffs that the proposed measure has three main features legalization, regulation, and taxation and that it is unfair and clearly misleading to characterize the measure solely as ‘Marijuana Legalization,'” Gants wrote. “We therefore order that the title be amended to read, ‘Legalization, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana.'”
     Thomas Kiley, an attorney for the Allen plaintiffs with Cosgrove Eisenberg & Kiley in Boston, did not return a request for comment Sunday.
     Neither did the Hensley plaintiffs’ attorney, John Scheft with Bellotti Law Group in Boston, nor did AG Healey’s office.
     James Dunn and Diane Sullivan are the plaintiffs opposed to the factory farm petition.
     They also failed to sway the court that the farm petition contains two unrelated subjects.
     The provisions prohibiting the cruel confinement of animals and the sale of so-derived products “share a common purpose,” Gants wrote.
     Gants said the sales provision also “protects Massachusetts farmers who comply with the law by preventing Massachusetts businesses from selling eggs, veal, and pork obtained from out-of-state farmers who confine their animals in a cruel manner and who, by doing so, may be able to underprice their Massachusetts competitors.”
     Plus, “If the confinement of hens, calves, and pigs were to pose a health and safety risk to consumers, the sales provision would also serve the purpose of protecting Massachusetts consumers from that risk,” the ruling continues.
     Dunn and Sullivan’s attorney, Katherine Spohn, of the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, did not return a request for comment.
     It is not certain whether proponents of the pot initiative met the July 6 deadline to obtain the requisite number of signatures for placement on the November ballot.

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