Ballot Question 4

As November draws closer, ballot questions are becoming more and more important to voters in Massachusetts. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to cover another controversial ballot question before we went to the polls.

On question 4, voters will have the option to let people 21 and over posses up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational use. This law would also allow home-grown plants (up to 12 marijuana plants). On top of this, it imposes a 3.75 excise tax on pot sales in addition to the 6.25 percent sales tax, and gives towns and cities the option to add-on a (third) municipal tax of 2 percent. For those keeping track at home, that’s up to 12 percent tax.

As with anything in politics in this day and age, there are those completely opposed, and those fiercely devoted to the ballot.

“Prohibition has failed to keep marijuana out of our community. It has failed to keep marijuana out of the hands of our young people. And it has cost law enforcement and society millions and millions of dollars to enforce,” Jim Borghesani said in an Associated Press article. Borghesani is a spokesman for Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is in favor of question 4. “We need to end prohibition and replace it with a taxed and regulated system and finally control marijuana in Massachusetts.”

Should this measure pass, a three-person Cannabis Control Commission would be created to “administer the new law and adopt new regulations”, with its members being appointed by the state treasurer.

Those against argue there are adverse effects of smoking marijuana, and can be a gateway drug to harder drugs, as Governor Charlie Baker, Marty Walsh, and Maura Healy have all said previously in an opinion piece written for the Boston Globe. The four Roman Catholic bishops of Massachusetts have also come out against the initiative, citing health effects.

“Legalizing a drug for recreational use that causes these effects on the human body, particularly our youth, is not a path civil society should choose to take,” they wrote.

Both sides have been pushing their views hard, particularly in the form of television advertisements. The Boston Herald found that $11.3 million has been spent on airtime, including time reserved for the next few weeks up until the election.

“In Massachusetts, TV time is crowded, primarily because of the New Hampshire Senate race,” said Borghesani. “TV time is at a premium.” Borghesani’s group has spent $2.3 million for TV advertisements thus far.

There’s a little less than a month until the election, and it is likely more money will be spent going forward pushing both sides of the ballot question.

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