Tag Archives: marijuana legalization

Why I’m voting against marijuana legalization in Massachusetts

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I’m not dead set against the eventual legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Still, I’m strongly opposed to Massachusetts ballot question 4: Legalization,  regulation and taxation of marijuana, and will be voting No.

Why? Because the arguments in favor of approval are not strong enough to make Massachusetts one of the first states to legalize. And some of the arguments against the ballot measure raise serious concerns. Instead I’d like to take five years or so to observe  how things go in early-legalization states like Colorado and Oregon and apply the lessons in Massachusetts.

I thought Massachusetts did the right thing by de-criminalizing marijuana. That kept police and the courts from wasting resources on possession of small amounts of marijuana and stopped lives from being ruined through unfair imprisonment and the stigma of  a criminal record.

Voters then went further and approved medical marijuana, which as I expected, became a precursor to the push for full legalization just a couple years later.

The innovative Citizens’ Initiative Review Project summarized the pros and cons of Question 4. The strongest pros were as follows (quoted verbatim):

  • Legalized and regulated marijuana is safer than black market marijuana because the legalized product will be tested and clearly labeled according to state regulations.

  • Question 4 will create a large number of regulatory, law enforcement, legal, and licensure jobs that are supported by taxes on the sale of marijuana.

  • Question 4 would give patients and health providers ready access to marijuana without committing a crime. Legalization could help people avoid opiates, addiction and worse problems. 

The first point is accurate, however there is an implicit assumption that legalization will eliminate the black market. Colorado’s experience indicates that the black market may continue to thrive alongside the regulated, legal market, and that the official market is the province of middle and upper class white people, while the poor and minorities are priced out. So that’s not such a strong argument.

On the second point, it’s weird that one of the strongest arguments for a libertarian-oriented law would be to create large numbers of government jobs. That’s a terrible rationale as far as I’m concerned.

On the third point, there is already ready access to medical marijuana for patients and health care providers, thanks to the legalization of medical marijuana. There are some hints that people may be substituting marijuana for opiates. That’s probably a good thing and we should follow it closely.

The strongest “con” arguments from the Review Project include the views I expressed above about the black market and large number of new government jobs. The cons include two additional, compelling points:

  • Although in development, at this time there is no definitive method of testing for impaired drivers.

  • There is conflicting evidence of an increase in teen use or motor vehicle accidents in states that have legalized recreational use.

Beyond the Review Project’s findings, there are other good arguments against legalization. Marijuana is addictive for some people, it affects the developing brain in negative ways, and “edibles” are too easy for kids to get ahold of and to consume before or during school.

Please join me in rejecting Question 4 in Massachusetts in this election. If you do, I promise to be open minded about reviewing my stance in a few years, once evidence is in from other states.

Image courtesy of Paul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

 

Drinking while grocery shopping. Is pot next?

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Where did my grocery cart disappear to?

Amazon.com seems to be unstoppable. It’s grabbed the lion’s share of the e-commerce market, turned other retailers into mere showrooms for shoppers who then purchase online, discarded list prices in favor of its own internal comparisons, and turned Prime Day into a new national shopping holiday. Little buttons around the house can be pressed to reorder staples, and voice commands to my Amazon Echo can summon goods to the home.

Supermarkets are now in Amazon’s sights. I’ve received come-ons lately for Amazon Fresh.

But instead of quaking in their boots, some supermarkets are taking a page from the casino playbook and offering inexpensive alcoholic beverages to customers. From the Wall Street Journal (Supermarkets Invite Shoppers to Drink While They Shop):

At nearly 350 Whole Foods locations nationwide, shoppers can carry open beverages out of the bar area and around the store as they shop around. Some stores have added cup holders to their shopping carts or placed racks around the store where shoppers can place empty stemless wine glasses. In some Texas locations, the $1 cans of beer rest in ice-filled buckets labeled “walkin’ around beer.” “When customers find out that they can sip and shop, a lot of times it’s a lightbulb moment,” Mr. Kopperud says.

Take that Jeff Bezos!

As just about everyone knows, alcohol lowers inhibitions and is more or less guaranteed to boost retail sales. Impulse purchase anyone?

But let’s fast forward this story just a bit. With the movement toward the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes –which I oppose– it’s just a matter of time before these same stores start opening marijuana boutiques at their entrances, featuring a wide variety of tasty edibles. For Whole Foods they will likely be organic, gluten free and artisanal.

You can bet the munchies will contribute to a healthy boost to the average sale!

Come to think of it, these two ideas aren’t mutually exclusive. A walkin’ around beer and a marijuana edible sounds pretty darn attractive.

Ok, Amazon. What’s your reply?

Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

Marijuana is not gay marriage

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It’s tempting to draw parallels between the legalization of gay marriage and legalization of marijuana. A pollster is quoted in today’s Boston Globe (Marijuana advocates lay groundwork for legalization in Mass.) doing just that:

“Opinion is changing very quickly on marijuana,” said Steve Koczela, the president of the nonpartisan MassINC Polling Group. He said a number of 2013 national polls found, for the first time, that a majority of Americans favor legalization of the drug. The rapid change, he said, “mirrors, in some ways, the same-sex marriage shift that’s taken place over the last few years.”

And the parallels go beyond that. Decriminalization of marijuana as Massachusetts has done is akin to allowing civil unions. The next step: full legalization, is viewed as a natural evolution of tolerance.

But there are serious differences. Civil unions lead to gay marriage because the rest of the population has a chance to discover for themselves that gay couples are no threat to heterosexual families. Contrary to some irrational fears, children are not “recruited” into homosexuality just because acceptance of gays goes up and is enshrined in the law. Once gay  couples are accepted and not feared, it becomes an equal rights issue –civil unions confer only partial rights and there’s no rationale to withhold full rights.

Time will tell, but I expect that experience with marijuana legalization will be different. Marijuana use is a health threat. Legalization does make underage use more acceptable, increasing harm. It becomes harder for parents to keep their kids from using pot.

It’s not inevitable that marijuana laws will become more and more lax. Cigarette smoking is becoming increasingly restricted and less culturally acceptable. The latest frontier is over smoking in public parks. Trans fats are being legislated out of use. New York City’s drive to limit soft drink sizes is not as crazy nor unpopular as it sounds. And beverages that mix alcohol and caffeine have been pushed from the market.

The abuse of prescription drugs is finally starting to get the notice it deserves. Parents are waking up to the fact that their kids –and if not them, their kids’ friends– are awfully interested in what’s in the drug cabinet, especially if that includes painkillers like Vicodin or Oxycodone. Something similar will happen with marijuana: barriers to its use will fall when the stigma of buying it from a dealer is removed and when its purity and freshness can be guaranteed by the retailer. I don’t want to see that happen in Massachusetts or elsewhere.

Having said that I do support decriminalization so people’s lives aren’t ruined by a marijuana possession conviction and so law enforcement loses the incentive to pursue property seizures.

photo credit: Eric Constantineau – www.ericconstantineau.com via photopin cc

By David E. Williams of the Health Business Group.