New England to consider recreational marijuana, minimum wage, gun control referendums

New Englanders will have the opportunity to vote on ballot measures that would legalize recreational marijuana use, increase the minimum wage and strengthen background check requirements for gun purchases. (Junbo Huang/The Daily Campus)

New Englanders will have the opportunity to vote on ballot measures that would legalize recreational marijuana use, increase the minimum wage and strengthen background check requirements for gun purchases.

Four states, Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota, will vote on the question of legalizing marijuana for medicinal use on Nov. 8, while another five states, Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada, will vote on the question of legalizing marijuana for recreational use by people 21 years or older.

The measure in Massachusetts, which legalized medical marijuana in 2012, would allow citizens to use, grow and possess up to six plants and ten ounces of marijuana for personal use. It would also create the Cannabis Control Commission to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol and introduce a retail tax of 3.75 percent, with the option of a two percent tax in municipalities.

Policy reform advocate Rick Steves, host of “Rick Steves’ Europe” on PBS, toured Massachusetts in October to encourage public support for legalizing recreational marijuana.

“There are so many reasons to end the prohibition of marijuana. Whether you’re concerned about the wellbeing of children, fairness for our minority communities, redirecting money away from criminals and into our state’s coffers, stemming the horrific bloodshed in Mexico, or civil liberties, it is clearly time for a new approach,” Steves said in a Sept. 21 press release.

The measure is expected to pass despite bipartisan opposition by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

“I’m not sure exactly what the benefits of creating a marijuana industry here in Massachusetts are,” Walsh said according to the Los Angeles Times.

The measure in Maine, which has permitted medical marijuana use since 1999, would allow the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to regulate the possession and use of recreational marijuana. It would institute a 10 percent sales tax, a licensing process for distributors and allow municipalities the option of limiting retail operations.

Voters in Maine will also consider measures that would require background checks on gun sales and increase the minimum wage. If it passes, the referendum would increase the overall minimum wage from $7.50 to $12 by 2020 and the minimum wage for tipped workers such as restaurant servers from $3.75 to $12 by 2024.

California, Nevada and Washington will also consider gun control measures, while Arizona, Colorado and Washington could vote to increase the overall minimum wage by a similar degree.

Minimum wage hikes almost always pass when put before voters as a ballot measure, Jerold Waltman, a political scientist at Baylor University, told Fortune magazine.

“Most Americans have a fundamental sense of fairness, that if you work, you ought to make enough to make a living wage on. Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on this,” Waltman said.

South Dakota will vote on a measure that could decrease the minimum wage for workers under the age of 18 from $8.50 to $7.50. California will also vote on a referendum that would require porn producers to supply condoms to actors during filming and another measure that would outlaw the use of plastic shopping bags due to environmental concerns.

Locally, voters in Mansfield will have the option to authorize the issue of $873,000 in bonds to fund renovations to Mansfield Middle School’s gymnasium. The money would be used primarily to upgrade the gym floor, in addition to overhauling the school’s bleachers, gym dividers, locker rooms and scoreboards, according to the referendum.

Mansfield Town Council Member Ben Shaiken said replacing the floor, which has been in use since the 60s, is part of a fiscally responsible budget for the town.

“They are in desperate need of updating and replacement,” Shaiken said. “I expect that the town will be as a whole supportive of the project. We really value good schools and school facilities.”

Town Council Member Virginia Raymond said that while she supports the project, she would have chosen to pay for the renovations over time through the town’s capital account.

“I would have preferred that it not go through bonding but instead have been funded through our pay as we go program,” Raymond said.


Kimberly Armstrong is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kimberly.armstrong@uconn.edu.