North

THE ARGUMENT

Should voters in November pass the ballot question to legalize marijuana?

YES

Steve Hatch

Malden resident, registered nurse

Steve Hatch

I’m an RN working in addiction detox and recovery, and I’m voting “yes” on Question 4. To me, it’s the only sensible approach, taking marijuana sales out of the hands of drug dealers, raising tax revenue, and ending a particularly unjust component of the “war on drugs.”

Despite cannabis being a relatively harmless drug, Question 4 has drawn a whopping response of misinformation and fear mongering by some politicians. They try to tie cannabis to the opioid crisis as a “gateway drug,” claim attractive “edibles” will put our children at risk, and proclaim that use by youth will spike. Besides, they say, cannabis already is decriminalized in Massachusetts.

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Civil penalties are still imposed, and arrests for possessing more than an ounce continue. Our laws prolong the war on drugs. Massachusetts forces cannabis users to interact with drug dealers, who also offer far more dangerous products. An estimated 885,000 residents used cannabis in the past year, almost half under 25, including one in four high school students.

The “war” isn’t working. Wouldn’t it be better to sell cannabis in stores where IDs will be checked and heroin isn’t on the top shelf? After all, teen use has not increased in Colorado. As far as edibles in attractive packaging goes, Question 4 sets up a control commission to govern exactly that sort of thing.

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Then there’s the “gateway drug” hysteria, particularly offensive to me. I’ve worked with substance use disorders in a variety of venues, most recently at a hospital detox unit. There is no detox protocol for cannabis, because cannabis is not physically addictive. It is not an opiate, and it does not cause opiate use. Cannabis use does correlate with other illegal drug use, but that’s just association, not cause. So do alcohol and cigarettes, both legal and physically addictive and much more harmful than cannabis. There is growing evidence cannabis may even help reduce opiate use.

Cannabis is not harmless. It should not be used by children or used so much that it debilitates. But research is debunking the myths. Our decision on legalized recreational cannabis should be based not on fear and ignorance, but on evidence. That’s how I reached my decision to vote yes on 4.

NO

Paul Donato

State representative, Medford Democrat, member of Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts steering committee opposing Question 4

Paul Donato

In the past two election cycles, Massachusetts already has decriminalized marijuana so that no one will go to jail for possessing usage amounts. We also have legalized medical marijuana so that people have access to it for health purposes.

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Now, the marijuana industry wants us to pass Question 4 to legalize commercial marijuana this fall. This is no longer about allowing someone to smoke a joint. It is about creating a billion-dollar marijuana industry in Massachusetts.

There is an unprecedented, bipartisan coalition of community leaders who believe that Question 4 is the wrong proposal at the wrong time for Massachusetts. Here’s why.

Commercial marijuana means an influx of pot edibles. Question 4 authorizes marijuana edible products like candies, cookies, and soda to be promoted and sold in our state. The highly potent edibles account for almost 50 percent of the sales in Colorado, one of the states that has legalized marijuana. There simply is no benefit, particularly for our kids, to allowing these dangerous products to be promoted and made more available for public use.

Question 4 also was written largely by the marijuana industry, and after the first year sets no limits on how many pot shops can open in Massachusetts. In Colorado, that resulted in more pot shops than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined. There is no reason to think that would not happen here.

Question 4 will open the way for a new black market to emerge by allowing people to grow thousands of dollars of marijuana in their homes, even if their neighbors object. And in states that have legalized, we’ve seen the industry disproportionately target poorer neighborhoods.

Finally, at a time when we are dealing with an addiction crisis, it will send a highly mixed message for our kids to allow the marijuana industry to come in and market and sell their products.

These are the facts. If you are concerned about any of these things, then why would we risk passing this major change now? You can be in favor of the concept of legalization, but believe this is the wrong proposal at the wrong time.

That’s why we urge voters to reject the commercial marijuana industry’s proposal and vote no on Question 4.

As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at laidler@globe.com.
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