By Fay Bcharah
The most discussed ballot question has been the fourth and last question. Voting “yes” to this would legalize marijuana for adults 21 years old or older in Massachusetts. The question’s prospects are mixed. A Western New England University poll in April showed 57 percent support for legalization, 35 percent opposed and 7 percent undecided. There is a lot to consider when voting for legalization.
The tax on marijuana would be 12 percent, of which 6.25 percent would be the state sales tax. 3.75 percent would go to a new excise tax to fund the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). And 2 percent would go to the city or town where the marijuana was purchased.
There are cons to legalizing marijuana, one being it can be a dangerous drug. The Foundation for a Drug Free World found that “employees who tested positive for marijuana had 55 percent more accidents, 85 percent more injuries and a 75 percent increase in being absent from work.”
Not only this, but “it has been found that smoking one joint gives as much exposure to cancer-producing chemicals as smoking four to five cigarettes.” The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) concludes that using marijuana can reduce thinking, memory, and learning functions. Their research suggests that “30 percent of users may develop some degree of problem use, which can lead to dependence and in severe cases takes the form of addiction.”
On the other hand, Amy Fontinelle, writer, editor, personal finance expert, wrote for Investopedia, a financial education website, about the issues of reducing the black market: “The shadow economy makes it possible for people to earn a living who would otherwise be destitute or seek welfare.”
Harvard University Professor Jeffrey Miron, has supported the legalization of drugs for decades. He states in an interview with Spiegel Magazine that “prohibition leads to violence. By making a black market inevitable, you generate violence because the conflicts between the parties involved in the drug trade can’t be solved by legal means within the judicial system.”
Proving this, a study made by the Drug Policy Alliance, found that burglaries in Denver, Colorado decreased by 9.5 percent after Colorado legalized recreational marjiuana in 2014. Also, overall property crime decreased by 8.9 percent between 2012 and 2014.
Miron goes on to explain that drugs are not as dangerous as publicized. He states, “Drugs are far less dangerous than people think. It’s not clear that consuming marijuana or cocaine has significant negative effects if the product is affordable, if we don’t have to risk our lives to get it, and if the product hasn’t been diluted secretly with rat poison.”
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), founded in 1995, is the largest organization in the U.S. focusing on ending the prohibition of marijuana. The MPP argues that the prohibition of marijuana has many opportunity costs. The time spent enforcing marijuana laws could be used better, they contend. The focus could shift to serious crimes like murder, rape, and burglary.
Molly Andes, a sophomore at Worcester State said, “I think overall I would vote yes, because I feel like people are still gonna do it if it’s illegal and it causes crime.” Andes fears marijuana is potentially a gateway drug, but she states “there’s a lot of grey area there.”
Though smoking in general can be harmful, legalization will provide many other ways to consume marijuana. The black market does help some people earn their living, but crime comes with these circumstances. Whether or not marijuana is a gateway drug, there are many more factors to look into when voting.