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Massachusetts Legalization Opposition is Heating Up

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Before the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Massachusetts has even gotten their referendum on the ballot, the opposition is already preparing to try and keep it from passing. The ballot referendum, the Taxation and Regulation of Marijuana Act, is still a little more than 10,000 signatures away before they can be considered for the ballot. If the ballot referendum passes, it would legalize marijuana for personal use for adults 21 and older.

Their opposition, the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, is already raising funds in hopes of keeping the ballot from passing this fall. The group is made up of legislators, law enforcement, health care professionals and educators, as well as concerned parents and citizens, and it is led by Governor Charlie Barker and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh. They claim to want to educate the public about the “risks associated with this dangerous proposal and serious adverse consequences facing states who have adopted similar laws”.

However, the states that have implemented legalization have seen more benefits than consequences. Even Colorado’s Governor is finally getting behind the idea, and his first response to the amendment passing was to call the voters reckless. The Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts aren’t stopping there, as they basically compare marijuana to heroin when they turn to the opiate epidemic as a reason not to legalize (even though opiate-related deaths are down in states with legal medical marijuana).

“To me, it appears like an oxymoron to indicate that we’re concerned about an opiate problem that is somewhat of a gateway to a heroin problem that has caused a great many deaths in the last few years — and all of a sudden we’re going to say we’re in favor of a drug and use the terminology that it’s ‘recreational,’” he (Rep. Paul Donato) said.

They also claim that continuing prohibition is in the interest of the children in the state. They worry that the “openness about weed” could tempt more teens to use marijuana. This argument is one that comes up again and again with the opposition to marijuana use – but recent studies all point to findings that show teen use and their opinions of cannabis don’t change much after legalization; if anything, use tends to go down as the substance becomes more difficult to obtain as the black market fades.

Another issue that the opposition addresses is the appearance that the referendum is only in the interest of those who would profit off the commercial marijuana market (even though it calls for adults 21 and older to be able to grow up to 12 plants at home). In the end, they are using the same tired arguments that are used all over the country – the only difference is, they have more people who are still on their side.

The most recent polls of 500 people showed 45% opposing legalization, 43% in favor of legalization and 11% who remained undecided. It really depends on which way that other 11% is leaning, because that will be what the legalization campaign needs in order to pass their referendum. It’s unfortunate that even with it so close, basically neck and neck, and still there are slightly more people already in favor of the opposition.

“There’s never a wrong time to correct a miserably failed public policy,” he (Lewis) said. “Remember, we’re not going to have to slide blind into this. We’re going to be able to pick up best practices from other states. By the time November comes around, four states that are already in this process have learned from their mistakes, and we’re going to learn even more from their mistakes and their successes.”

On the other hand, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol has a great referendum from the looks of it – and the regulations that would come after are sure to be strict as the proposed Cannabis Control Commission would be in charge of things such as testing, packaging and advertising laws for the industry. If presented in the right fashion, they have a good chance at winning over a good bit of that 11%. Hopefully, they will gather the rest of their needed signatures and at least be able to take their chances during the election.

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