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Activists who want joints sold over the counter like cigarettes are bankrolling a Bay State pot referendum backers claim will simply clear the air of piddling marijuana cases choking the court system.

The Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy, which placed Question 2 on the November ballot, collected from the Marijuana Policy Project $200,000, about 30 percent of its total.  Indeed, about 90 percent of the $635,000 the committee has raised comes from people who live out of state.

On its Web site, the marijuana project’s mission statement states clearly: “Adults who use marijuana should be able to obtain it from legally regulated establishments and not from illegal drug dealers.”

Woody Kaplan, a Hub real estate developer and self-styled “provocateur” who donated $10,000 to the state ballot initiative, also backs the call for legal pot sales.

“I believe taxing and regulating is a much better way than what the ballot question proposes,” said Kaplan, who held a $250-a-head fundraiser for the Marijuana Policy Prject earlier this month.

“This is government making a choice that something that is clearly destructive – alcohol – is OK, but somebody smoking marijuana isn’t,” Kaplan told the Herald.

Daniel R.  Lewis, 62, of Coral Gables, Fla.  – the scion of the Progressive Insurance fortune and a self-confessed former toker – also would like to see grass legalized and regulated.

“I think it’s a relatively harmless drug, as compared to alcohol,” said Lewis, who gave $5,000 to the pot project.

The group also counts among its backers actor Jack Black, talk show host Bill Maher and former wrestler and Minnesota Gov.  Jesse Ventura, and uses Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion for its lavish fund-raisers.

If passed, the ballot initiative would make having an ounce or less of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine.  Minors’ parents would be notified, and the kids would have to complete a drug awareness program.

Middlesex County District Attorney Gerard Leone slammed the pot activists as out of touch and predicted the measure would be a gateway to weaker drug laws.

“Question 2 will allow a foot in the door to people with a misguided, radical agenda,” Leone said.

Whitney Taylor, campaign manager, pointed to a Suffolk University poll that showed 72 percent of voters support the ballot question.

“They are not out of the mainstream,” Taylor said.  “They are the mainstream.”

Kaplan, a 66-year-old board member of the Godless America PAC, which “mobilizes nonbelievers for political activism,” said he’s heard it all before.

“Same-sex opponents said if you allow same-sex marriage, people would marry dogs,” Kaplan said.  “Yeh, right.  It’s just fear tactics, and it’s absurd.”


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