Local ballot questions draw big turnouts

By Amber Bollman, Globe Correspondent, 11/9/2000

oters in many suburban communities turned out in droves Tuesday to weigh in on divisive local ballot initiatives, including measures to legalize medicinal marijuana use, free up more money for school construction, and prohibit smoking in restaurants.

Voters in two Middlesex County districts decided in a non-binding initiative to make the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a civil matter. In the 6th Middlesex Representative District, which makes up much of Framingham, the measure won 68 percent of the votes.

Tallies aren't complete in the 2d Middlesex Senatorial District, which includes Winchester, Medford, and parts of Somerville and Woburn, but voters appear poised to approve an identical measure, tallying 65 percent of the vote with more than half of the district's precincts reporting.

In the 4th Essex Representative District, 62 percent of voters in Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and several more North Shore towns backed an intitiative asking state Representative Bradford Hill to introduce legislation to make possession of a small amount of marijuana a civil violation. The measure would also require authorities to hold minors charged with possession until they are released to their parents or brought before a judge.

And in the 4th Barnstable Representative District, where officials have tabulated 82 percent of the ballots cast, 63 percent of voters supported a measure calling on state Representative Shirley Gomes to vote in favor of a bill to allow patients with certain diseases to keep small amounts of marijuana for medicinal use.

School construction projects were approved in several suburban towns. In Lincoln and Sudbury, voters passed a measure to help fund a new regional high school. The initiative got 76 percent of the vote in Lincoln and 65 percent in Sudbury. In Natick, 61 percent backed financing for new construction of the Wilson and Kennedy middle schools.

In Hatfield, supporters of the renovation of an elementary school or the construction of a new school edged out opponents by just 13 votes - 907 to 894.

In North Reading, however, a proposed financing plan for the design and construction of a new elementary school, new police station, and improvements to the town's middle and high schools was defeated, 55 to 45 percent.

And voters in Leicester and parts of Worcester approved a measure asking state Representative John Binienda to support legislation to ban smoking in all workplaces and restaurants, 58 to 42 percent.