Why I’m voting against marijuana legalization in Massachusetts

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I’m not dead set against the eventual legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Still, I’m strongly opposed to Massachusetts ballot question 4: Legalization,  regulation and taxation of marijuana, and will be voting No.

Why? Because the arguments in favor of approval are not strong enough to make Massachusetts one of the first states to legalize. And some of the arguments against the ballot measure raise serious concerns. Instead I’d like to take five years or so to observe  how things go in early-legalization states like Colorado and Oregon and apply the lessons in Massachusetts.

I thought Massachusetts did the right thing by de-criminalizing marijuana. That kept police and the courts from wasting resources on possession of small amounts of marijuana and stopped lives from being ruined through unfair imprisonment and the stigma of  a criminal record.

Voters then went further and approved medical marijuana, which as I expected, became a precursor to the push for full legalization just a couple years later.

The innovative Citizens’ Initiative Review Project summarized the pros and cons of Question 4. The strongest pros were as follows (quoted verbatim):

  • Legalized and regulated marijuana is safer than black market marijuana because the legalized product will be tested and clearly labeled according to state regulations.

  • Question 4 will create a large number of regulatory, law enforcement, legal, and licensure jobs that are supported by taxes on the sale of marijuana.

  • Question 4 would give patients and health providers ready access to marijuana without committing a crime. Legalization could help people avoid opiates, addiction and worse problems. 

The first point is accurate, however there is an implicit assumption that legalization will eliminate the black market. Colorado’s experience indicates that the black market may continue to thrive alongside the regulated, legal market, and that the official market is the province of middle and upper class white people, while the poor and minorities are priced out. So that’s not such a strong argument.

On the second point, it’s weird that one of the strongest arguments for a libertarian-oriented law would be to create large numbers of government jobs. That’s a terrible rationale as far as I’m concerned.

On the third point, there is already ready access to medical marijuana for patients and health care providers, thanks to the legalization of medical marijuana. There are some hints that people may be substituting marijuana for opiates. That’s probably a good thing and we should follow it closely.

The strongest “con” arguments from the Review Project include the views I expressed above about the black market and large number of new government jobs. The cons include two additional, compelling points:

  • Although in development, at this time there is no definitive method of testing for impaired drivers.

  • There is conflicting evidence of an increase in teen use or motor vehicle accidents in states that have legalized recreational use.

Beyond the Review Project’s findings, there are other good arguments against legalization. Marijuana is addictive for some people, it affects the developing brain in negative ways, and “edibles” are too easy for kids to get ahold of and to consume before or during school.

Please join me in rejecting Question 4 in Massachusetts in this election. If you do, I promise to be open minded about reviewing my stance in a few years, once evidence is in from other states.

Image courtesy of Paul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

 

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