Harvard Students on High After Mass. Marijuana Legalization

Massachusetts narrowly approved the legalization of recreational marijuana on Tuesday night, and Harvard students are pretty excited about it.

“It will definitely benefit communities of color,” Reed T. Shafer-Ray ’18, member of the Harvard Democrats. “It’s symbolic of this greater movement to deracialize our criminal justice system.”

By far the closest of the state’s four ballot questions, Question 4 was called by the Boston Globe around midnight. At final tally, 53.6 percent of Massachusetts voters approved the ballot question, with 46.4 percent in opposition. Cambridge was more in favor, with 71.3 percent approving the measure.

Effective Dec. 15, recreational marijuana will be legal for individuals aged 21 and older. The drug will be subject to Mass. state sales tax of 6.25 percent as well as a special 3.75 percent excise tax on marijuana. Cities and towns across the Bay State have the option of adding an additional two-percent tax.

“I think it can provide a lot of revenue to the state and lessen the load on law enforcement,” Undergraduate Council Representative Evan M. Bonsall ’19 said.

According to The Crimson’s election survey, a voluntary questionnaire filled out by more than 2,000 undergraduates, Harvard students largely supported the ballot question; 65 percent of Massachusetts voters at Harvard planned to vote “Yes,” while 15 percent intended to vote “No.” About 18 percent of respondents remained undecided when filling out the survey, which closed on Oct. 20.

The legalization of recreational marijuana served as a small consolation prize for the many undergraduates who supported Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The Associated Press called the election for her opponent Donald Trump around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.

“I’m just feeling really happy and really satisfied. Especially with the results from the national election being disappointing,” Shafer-Ray said. “It was definitely a silver lining for us during the night.”

Not all students were excited about the results of the referendum. Matthew E. Cappucci ’19, who opposed Question 4, said he is worried about the proliferation of the drug, given its new legality.

“That is not something I’m at all looking forward to,” Cappucci said. “Now that it’s legalized it’s going to be much more common.”

Despite the prospect of legalization in a little over a month, Harvard will likely follow other universities such as Boston University in upholding the campus ban on marijuana. Harvard’s acceptance of federal funds for research puts it in an awkward legal position given that marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, despite legalization in four states before yesterday’s election.

“If they are in any way jeopardizing federal funding they must be cautious,” Bonsall said. “I also think that before they do that, they would be wise to consult the general student body about how they feel about that.”

California and Nevada joined Massachusetts in legalizing recreational pot during the election. Arizona voters rejected a similar proposal. As of presstime, Maine’s votes on recreational marijuana were still being counted in a tight race.

—Staff writer Joshua Florence can be reached at joshua.florence@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaFlorence1.

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