Editorial: ‘No’ on Question 4 — recreational marijuana can wait

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Call us uncool, but we actually like being in our right minds.

Of course a lot of people feel the same way, and would never — or never again, now that they’re older and wiser — smoke or ingest something classified as a psychedelic drug. Others would give anything to be able to climb out of the pit of an addiction that started out as innocent fun, and return to a steady life. Their loved ones would love to see it too.

And, you know, that’s reason enough to vote “no” on Question 4.

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Despite the maze of arguments and evidence attending the ballot measure to legalize marijuana in Massachusetts, it’s OK to leapfrog over it all and vote your conscience or your knee-jerk reaction to a question that asks whether it’s a good idea to legalize a mind-altering substance.

We have studied the 24-page ballot measure and the debates that for months have surrounded it. Though we strongly urge “no,” we find some of the “yes” side persuasive. We agree, for instance, that government is usually more effective when it uses its reins lightly. Personal freedom is surely a hallmark of our system, and includes the freedom to do things that are stupid, unhealthy or even, to some extent, dangerous.

Further, we concur that marijuana is not as fearsome as it is sometimes portrayed. Compared with the extremely serious health and addiction dangers of drugs such as heroin, cocaine and certain prescription opioids, marijuana is clearly on the mild end of the list of controlled substances.


Editorial: ‘No’ on Question 2


Question 4 would legalize marijuana in Massachusetts for “recreational” use by adults, with numerous limits and with layered oversights by the state and municipalities. At face value, the “recreational” label is appropriate. Marijuana, when not being used medically to combat pain or other more serious conditions, is generally used to get “high” purely recreationally, with the user expecting and wanting the effects to be temporary and without long-term consequences.

Smoke all you want, but let's think about this ...

Flickr/Martin Alonso

Smoke all you want, but let’s think about this …

But in real life, the “recreational” label for marijuana can be quite misleading. Many experts warn of marijuana’s sometimes drastically increased potency compared with years ago. And in addition to impaired mental function and decision-making while under the influence of marijuana — which is concerning enough — prolonged use of the cannabis plant carries known or suspected health effects.

Many of us have not experienced drug abuse personally, but few escape its heartache in some way. People don’t just die from drug abuse; maybe they live, a long time, but are all but lost to themselves. Once just a fun-seeker or curious youth, too many people end up not in their right mind in the least, and that’s got to be just about as bad as death.

This is pain. And this is why so many of us say an immediate no to Question 4, and maybe flinch at the question. The ones who flinch, we maybe admire most of all. Illicit drugs have been with us a long time, but the problem compounds when we grow inured to their presence and resigned to their power. Let’s not let that happen, in ourselves and in our laws.

We do want our government to give us freedom, but we also want it to show and inspire wisdom. Our government is us, after all, and a reflection of our values.

We align with the many who say that legalizing recreational marijuana “sends the wrong message.” It is not as simple an answer as it sounds. It’s a stand for what’s right, and an acknowledgement that reinforcing what’s right is part of government’s role.

There are procedural reasons, too, to clamp down on this ballot referendum. The proposed law was not crafted on Beacon Hill, and it shows, because it is an even deeper tangle of complexity than if it had been. If Question 4 passes, the Legislature will have a mess on its hands just to implement the law. Citizens will eventually find themselves in a state with a cumbersome Cannabis Control Commission and that regulatory body’s even larger stable of advisors.

Residents would be able to grow six plants in their homes, but seven would be a deal-breaker. In a practical sense, a “yes” vote, one could argue, would help to create the framework for a larger black market than already exists.

Marijuana is used by patients to treat several maladies, including pain associated with end-stage cancer.

Flickr

Marijuana is used by patients to treat several maladies, including pain associated with end-stage cancer.

Communities wanting to push back against marijuana retailers would have recourse available; just turn to page such-and-such and feel your head spin.

The rules are anything but straightforward.

The law sets rates of taxation at state and municipal levels before it is known if these rates will generate the revenue needed to properly administer oversight. It contains no provisions for municipal oversight of where dispensaries are sited. And it fails to give law enforcement the tools to quantify if someone is under the influence of this drug while behind the wheel.

Just reading the rest of the fine print of the proposed legislation — or even a summary of the fine print — can induce acute bureaucratic hallucination. And, like we said, we get an ample buzz from being in our right mind.

Eight years ago, Massachusetts voters allowed the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of pot. Four years ago, they returned to the ballot box to approve marijuana for medical purposes. The implementation of the 2012 measure was bumpy at first, but overall smooth.

We feel these measures strike the right balance on marijuana in Massachusetts. We also urge law enforcement to find better things to do than prosecute and hand stiff sentences to small-time marijuana dealers. There are bigger criminals to chase and concerns to address along the drug supply chain.

With the decriminalization and medical marijuana measures — and perhaps an atmosphere of lightening up on marijuana offenses those new laws help engender — marijuana users have gotten enough inches from the state of Massachusetts.

Let’s not give them the mile.

We recommend that voters reject Question 4 on the state ballot Nov. 8.

2 thoughts on “Editorial: ‘No’ on Question 4 — recreational marijuana can wait

  1. This 80 year-old public policy failure needs to end.

    We have an effective regulatory model for dealing with alcohol, a far more dangerous and damaging drug. Our alcohol policies and regulations have been revised and refined over the years. It’s not perfect. But, nobody in their right mind would welcome reinstating the Volstead act.

    Enough “Reefer Madness”. The prohibition of marijuana has been kept alive for decades through relentless fear mongering. The current proposal is not perfect. No major regulatory proposal ever is. But, it’s a good start. We will certainly revise it in the coming years.

    I’m voting yes on Question 4.

  2. The fact that there is not a well thought out, reasonable plan for the implementation of this should question 4 pass is the main reason to vote no on this one I believe. I do not totally disagree with the other points made here; what bothers me is that it sounds a whole lot like the argument in favor of Prohibition – which made a lot of sense when looked at in terms of preserving families but ultimately could not be enforced.

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