Reefer Madness 2.0 Takes Over Massachusetts

Things are heating up in the fight to legalize recreational marijuana.

Battle lines are being drawn as the fight over legalizing recreational marijuana continues to heat up in Massachusetts.

While the state has already implemented a medical marijuana program, many officials and lawmakers are doing everything in their power to stop a ballot question from passing that deals with the issue of recreational pot.

After penning an op-ed in the Boston Globe opposing the legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh recently announced the formation of an anti-legalization campaign that cautions voters against approving the measure over concerns that it would increase the use of cannabis among youths. The Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, also backed by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, features a coalition of doctors and law enforcement leaders who are advocating against legalization.

The current opioid crisis hasn’t helped the effort to get marijuana legalized, as Attorney General Maura Healey, who also contributed to the op-ed, recently said that the push for recreational weed is in direct opposition to the attempts being made to curb opioid use.

“At a time when we are trying and working so desperately hard to get help to those who need it, telling young people to not do drugs, trying to eliminate some of the barriers to treatment and to promote recovery, this effort at legalization seems to be directly at odds with those efforts,” Healey said.

Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg is another opponent of the ballot question and wants to ban home cultivation, but said that state agencies should be prepared for passage of the measure.

Pro-legalization groups haven’t done themselves any favors in the battle, though, thanks to a few recent mishaps.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Massachusetts made three mistakes in the final draft of the ballot question, and are looking into tweaking the language before voters decide on it in November.

The group has also been criticized for using a photo that features Baker and Walsh with a word bubble saying, “Our health policy: Drink more alcohol!” The image generated some outcry because Walsh is well-known to have drinking problems in the past.

While it seems like the issue is receiving a ton of backlash from lawmakers, officials who are opposed to legal weed are likely fighting a losing battle.

Half of Mass. voters support the legalization of recreational marijuana, and PSAs from the state’s prominent politicians may not have a strong effect.

Also helping legalization advocates is that Massachusetts could see a financial boom if the ballot question passes, as it would receive a significant amount in taxes from legal weed, which could be a $1.1 billion industry in the state by 2020. Colorado, which legalized recreational pot in 2012, saw the industry rake in nearly $1 billion in 2015, which contributed $135 million in taxes.

There’s also the argument that pot use is less dangerous than alcohol, so suggesting one of them is OK while the other is not doesn’t exactly hold water.

Absolutely no one dies from marijuana overdoses, whereas alcohol-related deaths recently reached a 35 year high. More than 30,700 Americans died from alcohol-induced causes in 2014.

While it’s not necessarily a bad thing that Baker is pushing for allowing states and towns to determine the number of liquor licenses that are given out, considering how many more people die from alcohol than weed, it’s a bit hypocritical of him and other anti-pot politicians to take a stand against recreational weed.

Voting on the ballot question maybe months away, but it’s clear that reefer madness 2.0 has already taken over the Bay State.