On November 8, voters in Massachusetts will decide on Question 4, which would legalize marijuana for residents 21 and over. Legalization opponents and proponents have waged a bitter battle filled with hyperbole. Here are the key issues.
QUESTION 4: Legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana. If voters say “yes,” Massachusetts will join Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, state, and the District of Columbia in legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
|Issue||Anti-Legalization Stance||Pro-Legalization Stance||My View|
|Youth Access||Legalization will lead to increased youth access and addiction.||Marijuana is easier to obtain than alcohol, and regulation will reduce access.||Limited evidence from states that have legalized marijuana does not point to increased youth access or addiction, echoing medical marijuana data.|
|Personal Freedom||Adult use of alcohol or nicotine comes with significant societal costs due to direct health consequences.||Adults should be allowed to use substances as long as, for the most part, others are not harmed.||Societal costs of marijuana use are unclear but likely to be less than those associated with alcohol or nicotine.|
|Taxes||No amount of tax revenue is worth societal costs of making a harmful drug legal.||An effective tax rate of 12 percent will limit black market sales.||The states with legalized marijuana have effective tax rates of 25-44 percent. Colorado raised $125 million in 2015, meaning that a 12 percent tax would yield approximately $70 million less. With most marijuana sales in Massachusetts currently illegal, making marijuana legal will substantially curb black market sales.|
|Addiction||Increased availability will lead to an increase in addiction.||Marijuana is not addictive, or not nearly as addictive as alcohol or opioids.||Use rates have doubled in the past ten years, but addiction rates have remained stable and are lower than the addiction rates for alcohol or opioids.|
|Driving Under Influence||Lack of breathalyzer makes it hard to determine impairment from marijuana.||Failed field sobriety tests alone may be sufficient for conviction.||Marijuana field sobriety tests, even with corresponding blood test, are not as precise as alcohol impairment tests.|
Dr. Kevin P. Hill is an assistant professor of psychiatry at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School and author of “Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth about the World’s Most Popular Weed.”