Boston Globe Editorial Board: Just Say ‘Yes’ on Question 4.

Article by Boston Globe Editorial Board


The Opponents of Question 4, which would legalize recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, have inadvertently provided the best reason to vote for the measure. Those opponents include virtually every elected official and law enforcement officer in the state, from Governor Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey on down, and their lockstep opposition (with the lonely exception of Senate President Stanley Rosenberg) sends a clear message that Beacon Hill will not legalize marijuana on its own, no matter how little popular support prohibition may have.

And that’s too bad. If the political leaders of the Commonwealth showed even the slightest interest in legalization, it would probably make sense to wait for lawmakers to produce a better-crafted proposal than the current ballot measure. But Question 4 is all we’ve got. The Globe endorses the yes campaign, despite the proposal’s many flaws, because the harm stemming from continued inaction on marijuana would be even greater.

Massachusetts decriminalized marijuana possession in 2008, but that left the drug in a kind of legal netherworld — not quite legal, not quite illegal. Users couldn’t go to jail for possessing less than an ounce of pot, but it remains illegal to sell. Decriminalization has been an untenable policy, keeping murderous drug gangs in business.

Question 4 would create a legal marketplace and, its authors say, end the black market. Legalization would also allow the state to tax marijuana sales, creating a new revenue stream for the state and for municipalities. And it would create business opportunities for marijuana entrepreneurs, who could apply for licenses to cultivate and sell marijuana from a new Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission.

 Opponents of the referendum stumbled out of the gate with scaremongering about the dangers of the drug. Marijuana isn’t harmless, but not all risky behaviors must be illegal. An ad from opponents raises the specter of pot shops — but taking drug sales off the streets is a feature, not a bug, of legalization. Nor would the law lead to pot shops on every corner, since the referendum allows municipalities to restrict their number. As for the risk from drugged driving, that already is, and will continue to be, a real problem. But the risk posed by impaired drivers is a reason to enforce traffic laws, not to ban pot (or, for that matter, alcohol).

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