Why I'm voting against marijuana legalization in Massachusetts


I’m not dead set against the eventual legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Still, I’m strongly opposed to Massachusetts ballot question 4: Legalization,  regulation and taxation of marijuana, and will be voting No.

Why? Because the arguments in favor of approval are not strong enough to make Massachusetts one of the first states to legalize. And some of the arguments against the ballot measure raise serious concerns. Instead I’d like to take five years or so to observe  how things go in early-legalization states like Colorado and Oregon and apply the lessons in Massachusetts.

I thought Massachusetts did the right thing by de-criminalizing marijuana. That kept police and the courts from wasting resources on possession of small amounts of marijuana and stopped lives from being ruined through unfair imprisonment and the stigma of  a criminal record.

Voters then went further and approved medical marijuana, which as I expected, became a precursor to the push for full legalization just a couple years later.

The innovative Citizens’ Initiative Review Project summarized the pros and cons of Question 4. The strongest pros were as follows (quoted verbatim):

  • Legalized and regulated marijuana is safer than black market marijuana because the legalized product will be tested and clearly labeled according to state regulations.

  • Question 4 will create a large number of regulatory, law enforcement, legal, and licensure jobs that are supported by taxes on the sale of marijuana.

  • Question 4 would give patients and health providers ready access to marijuana without committing a crime. Legalization could help people avoid opiates, addiction and worse problems. 

The first point is accurate, however there is an implicit assumption that legalization will eliminate the black market. Colorado’s experience indicates that the black market may continue to thrive alongside the regulated, legal market, and that the official market is the province of middle and upper class white people, while the poor and minorities are priced out. So that’s not such a strong argument.

On the second point, it’s weird that one of the strongest arguments for a libertarian-oriented law would be to create large numbers of government jobs. That’s a terrible rationale as far as I’m concerned.

On the third point, there is already ready access to medical marijuana for patients and health care providers, thanks to the legalization of medical marijuana. There are some hints that people may be substituting marijuana for opiates. That’s probably a good thing and we should follow it closely.

The strongest “con” arguments from the Review Project include the views I expressed above about the black market and large number of new government jobs. The cons include two additional, compelling points:

  • Although in development, at this time there is no definitive method of testing for impaired drivers.

  • There is conflicting evidence of an increase in teen use or motor vehicle accidents in states that have legalized recreational use.

Beyond the Review Project’s findings, there are other good arguments against legalization. Marijuana is addictive for some people, it affects the developing brain in negative ways, and “edibles” are too easy for kids to get ahold of and to consume before or during school.

Please join me in rejecting Question 4 in Massachusetts in this election. If you do, I promise to be open minded about reviewing my stance in a few years, once evidence is in from other states.

Image courtesy of Paul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.


7 thoughts on “Why I'm voting against marijuana legalization in Massachusetts”

  1. I am a former elected DA and university professor in conservative Texas. Each DA’s office has limited resources and if we want to give violent criminals long sentences then we have to clear dockets. Get rid of the pot cases. The Denver Post recently asked “Would you vote to legalize all over again?” Yes by a 61-34 margin- They should know.

  2. Steve, Can you provide a link to the poll you are referencing? Do you mean the poll commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project, which is an advocate for legalization? (Tagline: We Change Laws) https://www.mpp.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Colorado-PPP-Results-2016.pdf

    Q2 of that poll showed 61% of those surveyed thought the impact on the economy had been positive, which is not the same thing as voting again to legalize. Q1 asked “Overall do you feel passage of Amendment 64 has been good for the state of Colorado, bad for the state of Colorado, or had no real impact?” 47% said good, 39% bad, 9% no real impact, 6% not sure.

    If you look at the rest of the questions you can see it is a biased poll. Case in point is Q6 “Now that marijuana is legal for adults in Colorado, do you know of any friends, family members, or colleagues who consume less alcohol because they are consuming marijuana instead?” What is the point of asking about ***any** person, and why does the question only ask about people who consume less rather than those who consume more?

    There are no questions in the poll about any potential harms, such as the one I mention in my post.

  3. I’m afraid you’ve got the basic issue wrong David. The basic issue is, should I be allowed to legally consume a product which as a consenting adult I want to use, that has no obvious harm to others? We may disagree (or put another way, you may be wrong!) about the impact on the economy/drunken driving/taxes/the justice system etc. But in the end a “no” vote is you telling me (or me when I’m in Massachusetts) that I can’t do something which has no possible harm to you.

  4. Sir:
    The war on drugs is un Constitutional and a violation of our natural rights to control, own, and defend our own body.
    Recall that the founders based the founding documents on these natural rights.
    Recall that to make the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages illegal during Prohibition, a constitutional amendment was passed and then repealed.
    No such amendment exists for any drug deemed illegal by the centralized state.

    People have the natural right to put into their bodies what they choose as long as they do not harm you.

  5. I whole-heartedly oppose legalizing marijuana in any state. To address Matthew’s argument, this is not a drug free of consequences to others. I am a resident of Colorado and have experienced firsthand the repercussions legal marijuana has had on the health of our youth.

    Since legalization, there has been a spike in usage among pregnant women and marijuana poisonings among children have soared. Prenatal exposure is detrimental to brain development and has long lasting effects on cognitive functions. Its use during pregnancy is correlated with fetal growth restriction, future learning disabilities and memory impairment. Poison cases among children have also risen and The National Poison Data System shows that 75% of these occur by accidental ingestion of the edible marijuana products you referenced in your original post. Almost one in five cases require admission to a healthcare facility for treatment.

    Our adolescent population has also been negatively affected by marijuana legalization. Adolescent use rose 20% during the two years following legalization compared to the two years prior to legalization and data from 2013 and 2014 rank Colorado youth #1 for past month marijuana use at a rate 74% higher than the national average. This exposure to marijuana before full brain development causes impaired short-term memory, decreased concentration and shorter attention span and new studies suggest there could be long-term psychiatric effects from use. Additionally, use at a young age is correlated with a decreased chance that the individual will complete high school and an increased likelihood of drug dependency or addiction during adulthood.

    Colorado has exemplified the negative consequences legal marijuana has on the safety of youth, not just users of the drug. Movements to repeal Amendment 64 have been started and will hopefully prove successful on future ballots. Our efforts to reverse our mistake should convince any citizen filling out their ballot to vote “no” for legal marijuana.

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