Why I'm Voting in Favor of Question 3

The suffering in Massachusetts deserve access to medical marijuana, which could help ease their pain.

marijuanaPhoto by cwmeek via Flickr

In Question 3, voters have a unique chance to directly enable the sick and suffering in Massachusetts to get a medicine that helps them. Voting yes helps these people get relief where they couldn’t before. The evidence is sound: Marijuana can be a medication, and to deny suffering neighbors the only medicine that could help them is unacceptable.

That doesn’t mean medical marijuana legislation is free of baggage. As I detailed in my recent story “Lost in the Weeds,” it’s possible to feel deeply ambivalent about marijuana in your own life. Since legalized marijuana for medical purposes is indeed a step toward full-scale legalization, it’s worth picking through that ambivalence. But at the end of the day, the arguments to keep marijuana an illegal drug on par with heroin or cocaine are weak. The reason is that medical marijuana boils down to personal freedom.

It’s not the government’s job to save people from themselves. By contrast, it is the government’s job to save people who can’t be expected to save themselves, by which I mean kids. There have been numerous effective efforts to curb teenage drinking and smoking, without feeling the need to ban those things for adults. In America, we have the right to self-determine how we want to spend our lives—within reason. Certainly, if an adult wants to smoke pot every day, that is a reasonable choice to make.

The problem is that government has been adamant in its refusal to take a second look. Even opponents of medical marijuana—the Massachusetts Medical Society, for one—acknowledge the potential medicinal properties in cannabis’s active ingredients. But without marijuana being reclassified as safe for research, scientists will never be able to unlock those properties at an acceptably fast pace.

Voters shouldn’t really be in the business of approving medications, but there is simply no other option. If the government won’t reconsider its classification of pot, then voters have to force its hand. Sixteen states and D.C. have already legalized medical marijuana. If Massachusetts and Arkansas pass it, that’s 18, nearly half the states in the country. At some point, it likely will become more difficult for politicians to continue their draconian marijuana ban without seeming out of touch—or at least I hope so.

At that point, elected officials can chose to regulate it like alcohol or something else. That’s a conversation for another day. But I hope they do it soon. The state’s medical marijuana bill doesn’t include funding to get out an anti-marijuana message to kids, which means kids will be more aware of pot but perhaps without as strong a negative reinforcement against it as is necessary or desirable. As I said before, there has to be personal responsibility. Parents—not the government and certainly not the sick and suffering—need to shoulder that burden.

It’s unfair and bordering on immoral to hold the sick and suffering hostage just because we can’t reach our kids. That’s why I’m voting yes on Question 3.


Disclaimer: This opinion is the author’s and doesn’t imply any kind of endorsement or editorial stance from Boston magazine.

  • http://maVoteNoOnQuestion3.com Heidi Heilman

    Hi Casey, the medical marijuana bill doesn’t include a lot of things. It’s sad to me that you haven’t told your readers about the details of the law so they can make their own choice. You’ve already admitted quite publicly that you are challenged with your own addiction to pot. And you’ve lived in Colorado where there are more pot shops than Starbucks and McDonalds combine. So what’s it to you if we open the door to the market here in Massachusetts that will create the exact same landscape you are already familiar with. For those interested in learning what’s actually in the law that they’ll be voting on. Here you go: http://youtu.be/rWSHFZmm8Eg
    Pot shops and their billion dollar business would be non-profit under Question 3. They would not be subject to property or sales tax in the Commonwealth no matter how rich their owners get. Vote NO on Question 3 Massachusetts. Or we’ll look like California and Colorado in a few short years with few controls and a huge taxpayer expense for regulation, for treatment, for the law suits, for the social costs.

  • http://maVoteNoOnQuestion3.com Heidi Heilman

    Also, since you open the door to the issue of legalization. Another article came out today that talks about that: http://dailycollegian.com/2012/10/30/should-we-really-legalize-marijuana/

    And for the record – marijuana is already decriminalized here in Massachusetts. And there are FDA approved marijuana based drugs already available for prescription, more are on their way as they go through the rigorous clinical trial and study that protects citizens from fraudulent, unsafe medicines. Ballot Question 3 is more about opening the Massachusetts market to the big business of medical marijuana that capitalizes on the street demand and anyone’s self-diagnosed pain. By voting No on Question 3 we are not closing the door to our chronically ill in Massachusetts; instead we are saying this is not the right law for what we would like to accomplish with compassionate care. For those of us who have read the law and know what it means for Massachusetts – it’s clearly NOT the right law.

    • Gwalker

      As a 17 year old I see medical users and abusers everyday. With atleast half a dozen liquor/ wine stores within 20 minutes of my school, I would say its far easier to buy weed than alcohol in or outside of my school. To arrest those who need to smoke just to eat in the morning and sleep at night for the sake of saving high schoolers from getting their pot from a liscenced dispensary rather than god knows where is a thought built on an ignorant fear that high schoolers aren’t smoking habitually already.

    • Gwalker

      As a 17 year old I see medical users and abusers everyday. With atleast half a dozen liquor/ wine stores within 20 minutes of my school, I would say its far easier to buy weed than alcohol in or outside of my school. To arrest those who need to smoke just to eat in the morning and sleep at night for the sake of saving high schoolers from getting their pot from a liscenced dispensary rather than god knows where is a thought built on an ignorant fear that high schoolers aren’t smoking habitually already.

  • Joey

    You are voting for it because you have a brain. At this point of you are against medical marijuana (or even outright legalization) you are just too stupid to be talking anyway. This isn’t one of those issues with two sides to it, that’s why its going to pass in a landslide. Everyone should have the choice between natural medicine and the deadly/addictive dope the pharmacies try to push.

    • http://maVoteNoOnQuestion3.com Heidi Heilman

      Actually, polls are now showing a dead heat on Ballot Question 3. As people learn the details of the law and what’s truly happening in other states, they’re choosing NO. See the polls and all those coming out AGAINST BQ3 here:

      • Brad

        Heidi, you keep making arguments about why we should vote no on this, but you haven’t addressed the main issue: marijuana is intrinsically LESS harmful than alcohol and tobacco, yet we allow recreational use of those two drugs (along with caffeine, another drug that >50% of the US is addicted to). We tried Prohibition once, and the end result of that was more powerful organized crime syndicates. Do you actually believe that prohibition is a good policy?

  • Philip Daniels

    Good, Empathetic article, I believe people that don’t need marijuana, will vote for it’s use, once they learn the truth about it. A lot of people are already aware of the efficacy of marijuana, but we still have a long way to go. Compassion is a virtue that, not everybody can appreciate when they look at somebody like me. They think, well he doesn’t_look_sick. But, since the weather started turning down the last few weeks as it does this time of year, I can report my condition worsens and you can probably tell just by the fact if you knew me, that I’ve barely left a 1 mile radius of my apartment, if that, but to get a few groceries or go to medical services, never mind work. My big pharma meds might take the edge off my chronic pain, but the side effects are, as most everybody reports and I hardly feel like doing anything, except sleep. Unfortunately, we’ll still have to use discretion, if and when the law is passed. It will be sort of like having a gun permit. We’ll still have to defend it and our right to possess it. With the fear of alarming someone or corrupting young people and facing arrest. There’s no reason to go waving your medicine around in public, just like having a firearm, but we don’t need to be stopped and frisked either. When you have a firearm, just exposing it to someone in public, in the heat of the moment is felonious behavior and you’re subject to being apprehended, even if you have a permit. Only to be detained and aggravated, risking your constitutional right to keep and bear arms and paying a fine or worse. But unlike a firearm, marijuana is not dangerous, to the contrary of some people’s perceptions, so why should it be treated that way ? If you get out an aspirin to take, you’re not going to be arrested, why should it be that way with marijuana ? Which incidentally isn’t even as dangerous. People die from using aspirin every year, no one has ever died in 5000 years or more of recorded history from using marijuana. We can only hope that someday we’ll lose the stigma, just like when you carry a firearm, it’s for a reasonable fact that the constitutional law says you have a right to defend yourself, because the police can’t always be there. So why can’t we have the right to medicate ourselves as we see fit and not have to defend ourselves from being marginalized and voted against or in fact denied it’s use by the federal government ? I think it should be a real constitutional right as well, just like our forefathers thought, not only a state sanction. Please Vote Yes on Question 3 !

  • chris

    Why the federal government continues to ignore the empirical evidence before them while simultaneously holding a patent on marijuana themselves is a question for the American people to investigate.

    Patent number 6630507 states unequivocally that “cannabinoids are useful in the prevention and treatment of a wide variety of diseases including auto-immune disorders, stroke, trauma, Parkinson’s, Alzeheimer’s and HIV dementia.”

    The patent, awarded in 2003, is based on research done by the National Institute of Health, and is assigned to the US Dept. of Health and Human Services.

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