Medicinal Marijuana, Assisted Suicide Among Proposed Massachusetts Fall Ballot Measures

Ballot to be finalized by Attorney General's office on July 3.

Of the 31 initiatives put forth for the state-wide fall ballot, only four both have enough signatures and have been certified by Attorney General Martha Coakley in order to make it on the ballot by the July 3 deadline. And of those, one looks likely to be resolved by the Legislature before that date.

Proposals to legalize the use and cultivation of medicinal marjiuana, and allow doctors to prescribe drugs to terminally ill patients that would end their lives are expected to be considered by Massachusetts voters in November.

The initiative that appears likely to reach resolution is called "An Act Promoting Excellence in Public Schools." Backed by Stand for Children Massachusetts, it involves retaining and promoting teachers based on performance reviews and test scores rather than seniority. Proponents say it will raise teaching standards and make it easier for schools to fire ineffective teachers.

But opponents, which include the Massachusetts Teachers Association, say that evaluations are highly subjective. Furthermore, they say, the emphasis on test scores could deter teachers from taking on special-needs or more challenging students.

The battle looked like it was headed to the ballot box in November until earlier this month, when both sides reached a compromise that would save them a costly fight in the fall. It would promote teacher accountability by creating a data-reporting system and provide $13 million to school districts for teacher and administrator training. In return, teachers would relinquish some of their seniority rights. 

The bill, which Gov. Deval Patrick supports, is headed to the Legislature for passage by July 3. House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he intends to see it passed by the deadline. However, if the $13 million initiative doesn't pass the Legislature, voters will see it on the ballot this fall.

“I celebrate and congratulate MTA and Stand for Children, but they have cut a deal that requires somebody else to come up with the money, and we’re trying to figure out how to do that right now,” Patrick said, according to the Boston Globe.

The other three initiatives likely to make the November ballot include:

  • A Law for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana: This intiative seeks to legalize the use and cultivation of marijuana as a medical drug. It calls for no penalities for "qualifying patients, physicians and health care professionals, personal caregivers for patients, or medical marijuana treatment center agents for the medical use of marijuana."
  • An Act Relative to Death with Dignity: This initiative would allow physicians to prescribe medication to terminally ill patients that would end their lives. The act would require that patients are mentally capable of making this decision and orally communicating it to a doctor on two occasions 15 days apart. Participation by a doctor or health care facility would be voluntary.
  • An Act to Protect Motor Vehicle Owners and Small Businesses in Repairing Motor Vehicles: This initiative would require all car manufacturers to provide – on an equitable fair-market value subscription basis – all diagnostic and repair information for model years beginning in 2015 to owners or an owner’s designated in-state independent repair facility (not affiliated with a manufacturer or its authorized dealers). The law would also make available for purchase information for model years 2002 through 2014.


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