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YouSpeak: Should Recreational Marijuana Be Legalized?

Ballot initiative will allow Massachusetts voters to say yea or nay

Massachusetts voters are among those in five states (along with Arizona, California, Maine, and Nevada) who will vote on Election Day, November 8, whether or not to legalize recreational marijuana.

By voting “yes” on ballot Question 4, voters would allow “persons 21 and older to possess, use, and transfer marijuana and products containing marijuana concentrate (including edible products) and to cultivate marijuana, all in limited amounts, and would provide for the regulation and taxation of commercial sale of marijuana and marijuana products.”

A “no” vote would leave the current laws regarding marijuana unchanged. (The state legalized medical marijuana use in 2012 and decriminalized possession of the drug eight years ago.)

Not surprisingly, the ballot initiative is controversial, with critics asserting that marijuana is a gateway drug and that legalizing recreational use could lead to an increase in people becoming addicted to more serious drugs and draw attention away from the state’s efforts to contain the deadly opioid epidemic. They also argue that too little is known about marijuana’s effect on the brain, particularly for young users. Among those urging voters to say “no” to legalizing the drug are the Massachusetts Medical Society, Republican Charlie Baker, Massachusetts governor, and Democrat Marty Walsh, Boston mayor.

Supporters of the initiative say that prohibition of marijuana has failed to keep it out of the hands of young people, and that its continuing criminalization costs law enforcement and society millions of dollars every year. They argue that it’s time to end prohibition and replace it with a taxed and regulated system that would control the sale and use of the drug in the commonwealth.

If Question 4 passes, Massachusetts adults 21 and older could possess an ounce of dried weed or five grams of concentrate in public (you could have up to another nine ounces at home, but it would have to be locked up, literally). Residents would be allowed to grow as many as 6 plants at home, with a limit of 12 per household. And it could be grown outdoors for personal or commercial use, but would have to be planted where the public couldn’t see it. And it couldn’t be smoked or consumed in stores or public places.

This week’s “YouSpeak” asks: “Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Massachusetts?”

25 Comments
Alan Wong

Alan Wong can be reached at alanwong@bu.edu.

25 Comments on YouSpeak: Should Recreational Marijuana Be Legalized?

  • Lucius on 10.11.2016 at 12:20 am

    As Dean Elmore said, “vape nation”

  • Nathan Paddock on 10.12.2016 at 8:51 am

    Sounds like this regulation has a hole so wide, you could drive a Grateful Dead van through it! Does not address “driving while high,” the increase in weight and general poor health of users, whether a user would be eligible for unemployment status, what to do with legal users who get busted after crossing state lines, or how to enforce all of the feel-good qualifiers that proponents threw in (is someone really going to inspect neighborhoods for signs of visible pot plants?). Will an addict still be able to get treatment for addiction to marijuana? This also fails to address the growing trend to further concentrate THC, which does in fact make it dangerous. And let’s not forget about the industry of synthetics. Finally, federal employees that use it will still be lose their jobs when urine tests come back positive.

    • Mike on 10.12.2016 at 12:11 pm

      Nathan – I urge you to check out what’s been happening in Amherst and Wendell over the last few weeks. Believe it or not, the government actually IS conducting helicopter raids to look for pot plants – they even stole one single plant from an 81 year old woman with glaucoma. That’s a shameful waste of resources and, if you ask me, anything is better than our current failure of a policy.

      • Nathan Paddock on 10.13.2016 at 7:53 am

        Just because a couple of Mass cops wanted to score some weed, I don’t think that is really a justification for legalization. Actually it underscores my point that adding a bunch of unenforceable, feel-good caveats (they must be kept in an enclosed area, your stash has to be locked up at home, etc.) will just perpetuate a twisted knot of laws. And don’t forget you live in “tax-achusetts,” so chances are…yeah…the price will go up!

        • Caroline C. on 10.13.2016 at 12:48 pm

          Yeah, the marijuana sales tax revenue in CO is outstanding, and has actually surpassed the revenue from alcohol. It’s been amazing for the economy and people will pay it, because it’s a means of getting a controlled substance safely. Additionally, marijuana could be extremely useful in addressing the opioid crisis, as it is NOT an addictive substance and helps with the detox process. Every day, approximately 46 US citizens die from opioid overdose. Based on results of a study published in the Journal of the America Medical Association: “States with medical marijuana laws had a 24.8 percent lower average annual opioid overdose death rate compared to states without such laws. In 2010, that translated to about 1,729 fewer deaths than expected. The years after implementation of medical marijuana laws also were associated with lower overdose death rates that generally got stronger over time: year 1 (-19.9 percent), year 2 (-25.2 percent), year 3 (-23.6 percent), year 4 (-20.2 percent), year 5 (-33.7 percent) and year 6 (-33.3 percent).”

          Recreational laws allow for safer purchase, increased economic prosperity, and a crucial aid for recovering addicts. Don’t forget, MJ was outlawed in CA 1913 based on an obscure technical amendment by the State Board of Pharmacy, which was then leading one of the nation’s earliest and most aggressive anti-narcotics campaigns. Prior to the passage of the law, there was no indication that cannabis was a problem in CA. The outlawing was a business move, and not related to the well-being of users whatsoever.

    • David on 10.14.2016 at 10:29 am

      Your arguments seem to be a fair hodge-podge of stereotypes and misinformation, mostly stemming from the long campaign of propaganda against cannabis.

      There isn’t as large a body of research on “driving while high” as there is regarding alcohol, but there is some. It has been shown to have significantly less impact on driving than either alcohol or just being tired.

      “This report has summarized available research on cannabis and driving.

      … Evidence of impairment from the consumption of cannabis has been reported by studies using laboratory tests, driving simulators and on-road observation. … Both simulation and road trials generally find that driving behavior shortly after consumption of larger doses of cannabis results in (i) a more cautious driving style; (ii) increased variability in lane position (and headway); and (iii) longer decision times. Whereas these results indicate a ‘change’ from normal conditions, they do not necessarily reflect ‘impairment’ in terms of performance effectiveness since few studies report increased accident risk.

      REFERENCE: UK Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (Road Safety Division). 2000. Cannabis and Driving: A Review of the Literature and Commentary. Crowthorne, Berks: TRL Limited.

      Weight gain, while comically and traditionally associated with cannabis users, because of anecdotal association with “the munchies” has been shown, in several studies to be just that: anecdotal. Cannabis users exist across the full spectrum of society, and as a result, there are plenty of cannabis users who live unhealthy lifestyles, which is tied to obesity and poor health. Cannabis use has been more closely tied to low BMI in users of normal or higher than normal body weight.

      “According to available studies, appetite stimulation as well as weight gain may occur in patients with physical debilitation due to HIV/AIDS and/or cancer. However, while weight gain may occur, it is not greater than currently available agents for inducing weight gain (e.g. megestrol). As for the effects of marijuana on body weight in the general population, use appears to be associated with a lower body mass index. This observation may be partially explained by differences in short-term versus long-term use, comorbid polydrug use, and/or the intriguing theory that food and drugs may compete for the same reward sites in the brain. Alternatively, marijuana may genuinely be a regulatory compound, increasing weight in those with low weight, but not in those who are normal or overweight.”

      REFERENCE: Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2014). Marijuana and Body Weight. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, 11(7-8), 50–54.

      As far as “addiction to marijuana”, it has been repeatedly shown that cannabis users very rarely develop a physical addiction, though, admittedly, some have been shown to develop a psychological addiction. This is in contrast to a legal substance, like alcohol, which regularly destroys the lives of users and their loved ones.

      “A number of investigators have addressed this issue and found that only a relatively small percentage of those who try marijuana will become addicted. For example, in a large-scale survey published in 1994 epidemiologist James Anthony, then at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and his colleagues asked more than 8,000 people between the ages of 15 and 64 about their use of marijuana and other drugs. The researchers found that of those who had tried marijuana at least once, about 9 percent eventually fit a diagnosis of cannabis dependence. The corresponding figure for alcohol was 15 percent; for cocaine, 17 percent; for heroin, 23 percent; and for nicotine, 32 percent. So although marijuana may be addictive for some, 91 percent of those who try it do not get hooked. Further, marijuana is less addictive than many other legal and illegal drugs.”

      REFERENCE: Arkowitz, Hal, and Scott O. Lilienfeld. “Facts and Fictions in Mental Health: The Truth About Pot.” Scientific American 1 Mar. 2012

      The synthetics that are currently available, for an amazingly inexpensive source material, are prohibitively expensive and not as effective as what they are attempting to synthesize. The medical attributes of and applications for cannabis are not yet well understood, and the research that could produce effective synthetics is hamstrung by the draconian restrictions in place for scientists who would be willing to undertake such research.

      You are correct that federal employees will still face repercussions from use of cannabis, but this is less an argument against legalization than it is an argument for national legalization. Effect on eligibility for unemployment benefits or punishment for transporting across state lines fall into the same boat. The War on Drugs, and specifically on cannabis, has ruined the lives of many otherwise upstanding people of poor means and/or color, preventing them from living as fully engaged and productive members of our society. The loss of their contributions coupled with the billions of dollars of our taxes our government spends every year on increasingly militaristic enforcement of the prohibition of cannabis should, if nothing else, convince you that we need to reevaluate current policy and try something else.

      • Jose Artigas on 10.23.2016 at 4:30 pm

        Thank you David, not least for providing refs. Here’s my take:

        Against — Youth brain development; DUI; underage access; smoking is generally unhealthy
        In Favor — Tax revenue; fewer criminal prosecutions; health benefits (edibles & vapor reduce lung/respiratory ills); lower police presence; encourages small business growth; prohibition doesn’t work; more thorough regulation; it’s fun

        It’s a complex issue, but that’s why it’s controversial. On balance, people should

        Vote Yes on Question 4!

  • Dan on 10.12.2016 at 11:06 am

    On the day marijuana was legalized in Colorado, over forty people died from overdoses! Some of them had so much marijuana chemical in their bodies that when they were cremated, the technicians monitoring the process also got high! When will these teens and out of control young adult liberals learn this stuff is as dangerous as heroine, and not at all a safe drug like alcohol.

    • Ted on 10.12.2016 at 2:04 pm

      I hope for your sake that you’re being sarcastic.

      • mel on 10.13.2016 at 9:55 am

        A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response. That is literally and physically impossible. You are highly uneducated, therefore your opinion is irrelevant and INACCURATE.

    • Your brain on pots on 10.13.2016 at 9:46 am

      My friend injected 6 marijuanas and she literally melted into the couch. It took 3 weeks to completely scrape her off of there.

    • gman on 11.08.2016 at 3:09 pm

      Alcohol has killed more and caused more harms to society in general than any other illegal drug, you should bury your head deep in the sand, exactly where you pulled it out of.

    • Your NH Neighbor on 03.29.2017 at 8:19 am

      While that is not likely to be true, in Colorado there has been a noticeable increase in children brought to the ER for ingesting marijuana. Symptoms ranged from “sleepiness to difficulty breathing, or they were comatose. Nearly half of the children required care in the intensive care unit and some needed intubation.”

      https://www.childrenshospitals.org/newsroom/childrens-hospitals-today/spring-2015/articles/recreational-marijuana-legalization-and-the-effects-on-child-health-and-safety

  • Rubes on 10.12.2016 at 12:37 pm

    “A safe drug like alcohol”??? Is this a joke?

    • Daniel on 10.13.2016 at 7:17 am

      Right! Blasphemy, alcohol is not completely safe!

  • Too Soon on 10.12.2016 at 2:02 pm

    Both sides of this argument have practical points to consider. However, I’m more worried about the actual impact on every day life. For business owners – what do you do when your employees come to work high, or get high at lunch (after all – it’s legal)? How much is ok for your kid’s school bus driver to have before getting behind the wheel (there is no reliable test for it in the system at this time)? How much is ok for your mother’s surgeon to have before operating? We are jumping the gun by not making sure strict guidelines are in place before legalizing a drug that affects reaction time and the ability to make decisions. We can’t keep alcohol and prescription drugs out of teen’s hands……so I’m not sure what the thought process is to legalize yet another drug that affects brain development. I’ve already seen teens smoking pot in local parks – and then getting into cars and driving away (being able to grow plants inside means they will have complete access to it). I’m not excited about being on the road with people under the influence of ANY drug that affects their ability to react quickly and make appropriate decisions. I’m also sick of my tax dollars going to take care of people who are incapable of holding a job due to addictions that we haven’t been able to control. I’m not sure what studies have been done to check the long term impact of marijuana use on developing brains (keeping in mind the THC levels are FAR above what they were in the ’60s). Alcoholism and opioid addiction are not under control…so sending the message that yet another drug is ok does not seem logical. The argument that it will make the state a lot of money is morally reprehensible. What should we sell next?

    • Daniel on 10.13.2016 at 7:22 am

      If you read the proposed changes, you’ll find that workplaces have the right to not allow their employees to use marijuana, if they choose. Also, do you think that people who will benefit from this law aren’t already using? People hardly make choices not to use because it’s against the law. This change won’t cause the creation of a creation of a new group of users; they’re already using. This is to make changes towards the end of prohibition, which has been a failed cause since the war on drugs.

    • Guru on 10.13.2016 at 10:30 am

      So you would argue that alcohol should be illegal, too? You could make all the same arguments.

  • Ashlynn Wedwick on 10.12.2016 at 11:08 pm

    I am from Grand Canyon University, as a nursing student here. I reviewed this article for a speech-and-debate about recreational marijuana, and I found these points helpful. Currently, the FDA has only approved two drugs that we use in our hospitals to help children and adults with AIDS and cancer, related to their loss of appetite. I happen to be on the “pro” side of the marijuana debate, which makes my case difficult, since I will present this to a ton of other nursing students and a professor–all against marijuana. But I did find these points helpful.

  • Nathan Paddock on 10.13.2016 at 8:28 am

    Check out newsweek.com’s article “The Unexpected Side Effects of Legalizing Weed.” There are some serious long-term implications: increase in homeless population, increase in illness and death from edibles, and an increase in “teen drug-related school expulsions.” As for the argument it will increase revenue for the state, the Newsweek author writes, “the cost of increased law enforcement, drugged-driving incidents, fatal crashes, loss of productivity and a huge spike in gang-related crime bring into question the cost-benefit of those dollars.” There is evidence that new, sophisticated drug cartels have formed in Colorado and possibly Oregon. Plus, whatever you do save by reducing arrests will likely be replaced by the bureaucracy of regulating the industry, especially edibles. Will you penalize a pregnant woman for smoking pot? How are you going to keep kids from getting their hands on pot candy? An article on Fortune.com (“Is Pot losing its Buzz in Colorado”) says people who previously supported legalization are surprised to “these sophisticated businesses opening up next to their schools selling things like marijuana gummy bears. And they’re angry.”

    • David on 10.14.2016 at 11:12 am

      After reading the article you cited, I would invite you to take a closer look at the “sources” it uses to justify the alarmist claims it makes. While deaths have been attributed to edibles in Colorado, I think you’ll find that the edibles have been present and not the direct cause of the deaths in question. The loss of life is tragic, and any we should try to prevent it where we can, but unless you are also suggesting that we make balconies illegal, or guns, we will be unable to keep future tragedies from occurring.

      The sudden influx of homeless in Colorado has yet to be attributed to any one factor, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to suggest that homeless people might decide to move to a place where they are less likely to be subjected to police attention for an activity that carries a disproportionate response. Beyond this, the source your Newsweek article cites suggests that the influx could also be attributed to Denver’s economic revival, with many coming in search of jobs.

      The spike in gang-related violence in Denver does not have a clear cause, with multiple factors possibly playing a part. Attributing it to cannabis legalization is not supported by evidence. There is as much an argument for it being the result of gentrification in Denver as there is for cannabis legalization.

      Fun fact about replacing prohibition with bureaucracy; the money we save from not policing will be affected by paying for the regulation, except that it will be offset by the taxes generated from that same regulation, whereas the DEA does not generate anything.

      Women who smoke anything are not currently penalized, other than by the consequences of their poor choices and the unfortunate lives of the children affected by them. If they smoke cigarettes, are they prosecuted?

      Keeping kids from getting edibles is the responsibility of their parents, the same way those parents are responsible for keeping them from drinking alcohol, prescription medication or drain cleaner. That hasn’t changed and is a spurious argument. Those children would be unable to purchase that “pot candy” just like they’re unable to buy alcohol now. That also goes for “teen drug-related expulsions” whether from possession of alcohol or cannabis.

  • Dave Fox on 10.13.2016 at 9:21 am

    I believe the war on drugs is a failed program. I think decriminalization is a step in the right direction. Then I think all the people in prison for possession and using should then be released and their records expunged and any civil rights restored. Concerning all the details of how to allow it, where to allow it, and penalties of working and driving while high, I think the current policies on alcohol are a good guideline. I also believe taxation of sales of anything containing marijuana and should go towards enforcement and treatment of people for whom it is a problem.

    • Rubes on 10.13.2016 at 11:15 am

      Spot on, Dave!

  • gman on 11.08.2016 at 3:33 pm

    Every single argument against marijuana that has any truth to it can be immediately countered with “but you have legalized alcohol and don’t seem to have problems with these same issues when speaking about it, how come?” I will tell you why, because you still remained brainwashed by a tainted belief system spread by negative propaganda. The same propaganda that was masterminded by the very system that sentenced DR Timothy Leary of Harvard University to 30 years for a single joint. and others are serving life sentences even today for selling marijuana. All I can say is time to shut up and wake up. Anyone who claims marijuana should not be legalized, but consumes alcohol, is a complete hypocrite that really needs to just be quiet end the BS.

    The research has been done, and not just here, but in the Netherlands where marijuana has been legal for a long long time. But I still see in print, there’s no long term research. Like that has stopped the FDA.. HA!

    Also, high powered weed has been around since the dawn of time, it depends on where its grown, the right conditions are what produce the high potency.. WOW you folks need some serious help, you keep opening your mouths and let dribble flow out. 30 years ago I was in Amsterdam toking up, and in Jamaica toking up, and its no different than today’s herbs. Ok, so you tried some commercial grade Mexican and then tried the new MMJ grown in the dispensary and yes there is a big difference, but strong weed is not new. Ed Rosenthal, the father of indoor growing and high potency marijuana, published his first book in 1978. A good friend of mine learned to grow in Vietnam before that, and brought home the secrets and all I can tell you most of the stuff in the dispensaries I have indulged in isn’t as good, go figure. There are some great secrets on how to get as much resign in the buds as possible, one of which is to snap the stem to the bud 3 days before harvest. I won’t go into the tying up of the bud with string, hence, what is known as Tai Stick. I honestly love hearing so called researches, and other academia banter to make themselves look and sound intelligent, it is rather comical. Go have a cocktail, then drive home, and think long and hard what you have against marijuana, and through the brainwashed fog, you might just see that you don’t have a leg to stand on but the stiff, artificial limb the government gave you when you last hit your head against the wall.

  • Kiren on 08.10.2018 at 7:29 pm

    After researching so many articles I have found that Recreational Marijuana Should Be Legalized.

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