MA ballot initiative to decide on medical marijuana

The Medical Marijuana Initiative will appear on the ballot on Nov. 6  in Massachusetts as Question 3. Voters will decide the fate of legalizing medical use of marijuana in the state.

Photo courtesy of AlbertCahalan/Wikimedia Commons

According to the ballot language of the measure, “A yes vote would enact the proposed law eliminating state criminal and civil penalties related to the medical use of marijuana, allowing patients meeting certain conditions to obtain marijuana and distributed by new state-regulated centers or, in specific hardship cases, to grow marijuana for their own use. A no vote would make no change in existing laws.”

The controversial measure has initiated discussion throughout Massachusetts. "We’re very concerned that it is so loosely written, relative to who can obtain it and for what reasons," Wayne Sampson, Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association executive director, said to the MetroWest Daily News.

Others are opposed to the initiative because they claim that legalizing the medical use of marijuana without enough scientific proof would be dangerous. “Medical marijuana will lead to increased use of the drug among teens and adolescents whose developing brains are particularly vulnerable to its effects. Recent studies have found that the marijuana can have long-term effects on cognition and mental health, particularly for those who begin using it when they are young and continue over time,” according to an article on Boston.com.

The initiative has gotten widespread support from the patients who suffer nervous system diseases and rely on marijuana to relieve pain and depression. Steve Salin, a resident of Chelsea, said to Boston.com that he is suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Salin's disease has ended his ability to move his mouth or to speak.  His muscle continues to waste away and the medical use of marijuana helps his muscles to relax and become pliable enough to stretch. Thousand of patients like Salin have appealed to the voters to respond yes on question 3.

A medical marijuana shop in Colorado. Photo courtesy of O'Dea/Wikimedia Commons.

According to a poll conducted by the Boston Globe in September, 69 percent of those surveyed are in favor of medical marijuana. A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling revealed that 58 percent are in favor of medical marijuana. It is likely that the initiative will pass.

The initiative on the ballot brought mixed feelings among Boston College  students.

“If they legalize it, they can regulate the industry. But personally I don’t have a problem with the government outlawing it because it’s bad for you and its dangerous,” Olivia Hart, A&S’ 16 said.

Students at BC are also concerned about the abuse of marijuana on campus. Molly Mao, A&S’ 16, said, “The abuse of drugs is always a thorny problem in universities. I’m kind of worried that there will be more abuse of marijuana at BC if they legalize it, since it’s more easier to get.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, long-term marijuana abuse can lead to addiction; that is, compulsive drug seeking and abuse despite the known harmful effects.

Medical use of marijuana has a long history and is employed in the treatment of numerous diseases. According to Franjo Grotenhermen’s "Review of Therapeutic Effect", it is used “for applications such as nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, anorexia and cachexia in HIV/AIDS, and spasticity in multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, there is strong evidence for medical benefits."

In the U.S., the federal government outlawed all use of cannabis except some low doses of synthetic cannabinoids for one or more disorders. Due to the belief that marijuana can be effective medically, however, 19 states have approved the medical use--putting them in conflict with federal law. The following are the states that have approved of medical marijuana: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and DC .

Massachusetts decriminalized the possession of marijuana on Nov. 4, 2008. This decriminalization means that any one who gets caught with less than one ounce of marijuana or is caught smoking in public is punished by a civil fine of $100, rather than a criminal charge. “The change in the law means someone found carrying as many as dozens of marijuana cigarettes will no longer be reported to the state’s criminal history board,”according to an article on Boston.com.

See how medical marijuana works in California. 

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