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Marijuana Legalized In Massachusetts: What Happens Next

BOSTON (CBS) - As the clock approached midnight on Election Day, supporters of the ballot question to legalize recreational marijuana celebrated victory inside a downtown Boston election party.

"A century-long mistake has been abolished!" Yes on 4 communications director Jim Borghesani told the crowd. "Voters chose fact over fear and rational arguments over hysteria."

The lifting of the prohibition on pot will have some very immediate effects. Starting on December 15, adults 21 or older will be able to possess and use up to an ounce of marijuana. People can also grow up to a dozen plants per household.

"People can use it with temperance and not abuse it. Just like alcohol, everything is good in moderation," supporter Dan Africht told WBZ-TV.

However, the lucrative commercial business will not be able to set up shop until January 2018, when the first marijuana dispensary licenses will be approved.

Marijuana dispensary in Brockton (WBZ-TV)

Beth Waterfall belongs to an organization that brings together professionals working in the cannabis industry. She is excited about the tax revenue coming to communities along with the economic opportunities.

"I know that Question 4 passing means jobs for Massachusetts," Waterfall said.

Lawmakers, who largely opposed the ballot question, will now be busy trying to determine how to best implement the will of the voters.

Questions loom about how to set limits so police can enforce drugged driving. There are also concerns about how to package and label marijuana-infused edibles like cookies and candy to keep them out of kids' hands.

Borghesani said other states that previously legalized marijuana have already provided a roadmap.

"There were some early missteps, but they have packaging now that's childproof," he said. "They've stopped selling gummy bears and gummy worms. So it's really just hysteria and fear from our opponents."

Marijuana edibles
Marijuana edibles (WBZ-TV)

The law creates an oversight body called the Cannabis Control Commission. The three-member group will be appointed by state treasurer, Deborah Goldberg.

There is also debate over the tax rate. The ballot question puts it at 12 percent—6.25 percent is sales tax, 2 percent would go to city or town, and remaining 3.75 percent would fund regulation and enforcement.

Some, including Goldberg, are calling for higher rates like other states that previously approved legalized marijuana. In Washington, the tax is a whopping 37 percent.

But Question 4 proponents believe a sky-high tax would have counterproductive results by not effectively undercutting the Black Market.

Even though marijuana remains illegal in the eyes of the federal government, the issue is increasingly being decided by voters across the country.

On Tuesday, Massachusetts was one of four states to make it legal, joined by California, Maine and Nevada. Voters defeated the question in Arizona.

"This is a trend and this is what the majority of people think is reasonable and acceptable. I hope we see this nationwide," supporter Brandon Kurtzman told WBZ-TV.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Lana Jones reports

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