Legal Weed in Massachusetts Sees Marked Division

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A debate raged in Massachusetts on Tuesday about whether or not marijuana should be legalized in the state. Roman Catholic Bishops and some physicians argued with Jim Borghesani, a spokesperson for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, who spoke on behalf of the supporters of Question 4, the ballot measure that would allow for legal weed in Massachusetts. The debate was divided into 2 specific segments. One focused on the economic impacts of legalization and the other focused on the effects on public safety. The debate was held at the UMass Boston as part of a series of debates that focus on discussing the pros and cons of the 4 ballot questions that Massachusetts voters will vote on in November.

Does Control Mean Commercialization?

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Some critics worry that Question 4 could open the door for a commercialized marijuana industry.

State Sen. Jason Lewis represented those who opposed legal weed, saying that the measure is all about commercializing big marijuana in Massachusetts. His reasoning for this is the low tax rate placed on marijuana sales. 3.75 percent marijuana sales tax would be put on top of the regular 6.25 percent state sales tax, putting the total at a 10 percent marijuana sales tax. On top of this, cities and towns would be able to place an extra 2 percent municipal tax on the herb. Borghesani argued that others states were considering lowering their taxes as well.

Borghesani said “Prohibition has failed to keep marijuana out of our community. It has failed to keep marijuana out of the hands of our young people. And it has cost law enforcement and society millions and millions of dollars to enforce. We need to end prohibition and replace it with a taxed and regulated system and finally control marijuana in Massachusetts.”

Legal Weed Facts vs. Fiction

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There’s no evidence to suggest legalized marijuana would lead to an increase in public safety expenses.

Prohibitionists argued that legal weed would increase public safety costs due to marijuana’s physical effects on the body and the rise in ambulance rides and emergency room visits. Borghesani called the concerns “alarmist rhetoric” that does not reflect any actual data collected from states that have legalized the herb. Studies show that marijuana has been found to be safer and healthier than both alcohol and cigarettes and the worst physical effect found in studies of those who have used the herb for over 20 years is a higher risk of gum disease from the smoke. In states where the herb has been legalized, deaths caused by opioids have lowered and opiate addiction in general has decreased.

Question 4 Answers

The measure would allow Massachusetts residents to legally possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to 12 plants, so long as they are kept out of public view. Lewis argued that residents could choose to sell the marijuana grown from their plants on the black market. Borghesani called this an insult to Massachusetts residents, saying it reflects the current law in the state that allows residents to brew their own beer.

Massachusetts is not the only state deciding on whether or not to legalize marijuana in November. The state is joined by several others, including California, Nevada and Maine. Should the measure pass, the herb would be legalized on December 15, 2016.

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