Forget about Clinton vs. Trump for a second. This November, five states will be voting on marijuana legalization (Maine, Massachusetts, Arizona, California, and Nevada) while four more will be voting on allowing medical marijuana (Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota). How these referendums turn out should be an indication of the path that this country will be taking in the coming years regarding the war on drugs as well as the war on common sense.
As a current resident of the unofficial capital of Dunkin’ Donuts and poorly designed city streets (Boston), I’m going to do my best to tackle how marijuana legalization – aka referendum 4 – is being presented in Massachusetts. Most current polls show support for marijuana legalization to be slightly ahead of opposition, but it’s pretty close. Let’s breakdown the arguments for both sides:
Not surprisingly, supporters and detractors of referendum 4 seem to contradict each other on a couple key points. So who’s right? Let’s look at both sides using real facts and actual data to see who comes out on top:
Reduce Crime (Proponents) vs. Increase Crime (Opponents)
In studies done on crime statistics in states that have already legalized marijuana, there has been no significant change in crime rates. The cities of Denver and Seattle saw no increase in either the crime rate or violent crime rate after legalization was passed. So statistically, proponents of pot legalization have the edge. And objectively, how would legalizing an illegal commodity lead to more crime? That argument is so perplexing to me, a rational human with a working brain. Are they assuming that potheads given access to legal weed will be roaming the streets in a pot-induced stupor stabbing tourists willy-nilly? Someone please explain to me how any person would feel comfortable committing a crime after a few bong hits of Purple People Eater.
Improve Public Health (Proponents) vs. Increase Alcohol/Drug Use (Opponents)
In the same studies that found states that legalized marijuana had no increase in crime, they also came to the conclusion that marijuana and alcohol use had no change after legalization. In fact, admissions to emergency rooms in Colorado and Washington for treatment of alcohol or marijuana declined slightly after it was made legal, in other words, the opposite of what opponents of referendum 4 here in Massachusetts are saying will happen.
Are they assuming that residents of this state lack the self-control of our West coast friends, and given legal pot dispensaries we’ll all go out to smoke and drink until we’re hospitalized?
So the supporters of referendum 4 seem to have statistics on their side so far. But what about the other claims they make in support of legalization? Will it really raise tax revenue? In a short: absolutely. Marijuana sales in Massachusetts will be taxed similar to those in Colorado and Washington, who anticipate $140 million and $270 million in marijuana tax revenue this year respectively.
I imagine at this point you’re thinking something like: “if legalizing pot is going to help the state’s economy without increasing crime or hurting public health, then why are so many people opposed to it?” It’s a good question, one made even more puzzling by the fact that both Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh are part of the opposition.
What I’ve come to understand after much reading on both Baker and Walsh’s collective stance is that sometimes people are morons. I think that this is best exemplified by Gov. Baker’s comments in which he said that marijuana legalization “would put our children at risk and threaten to reverse our progress in combating the growing opioid epidemic.” Uhhh… hey Chuck, research has found that states where medical marijuana is legal have actually experienced a drop in prescribed opioid use, you know... the opposite of what you’re saying is gonna happen. For a governor who has been so active combating the opioid epidemic in his state, it’s very odd to me that Baker would use this as a talking point to rail against pot legalization.
Besides decreasing the risk of prescription pain pills leading to opioid addiction, the decrease in prescriptions in states where medical marijuana is legal also saved state spending on Medicare about $165 million in 2013. So legalizing pot leads to a decrease in prescribed opioids, thus lowering the risks of opioid addiction while also putting money back in the state’s pocket. Just keep drawing that imaginary line connecting marijuana and opioid addiction, Governor Baker. I’m sure no one will actually fact check you and wonder why you’re using one of Massachusetts most harrowing public health problems as false propaganda for your misguided anti-legalization campaign, you pompous dickhead.
Can we as a nation please join hands together and all agree to stop this ridiculous allegation? I need the Federal government to make a recommendation that everyone involved in the national conversation on pot legalization be forced to take a class on correlation and causation. Also take a class on how to appreciate my fire flow cuz those rhymes could be on Kendrick Lamar’s next album.
In all seriousness, the same studies that compare marijuana use to harder drug use later in life also found a similar correlation for nicotine and alcohol leading to future drug use. So unless the anti-legalization movement wants to ban alcohol and tobacco for the same specious reasoning, I suggest they put the gateway argument to rest.
No studies on humans have found pharmacological or biological connections between smoking pot and an increased likelihood of future drug abuse. So until there is actual scientific evidence of that being the case, let’s all try to sound less like Homer Simpson buying a tiger-proof rock.
In summation, if you’re a resident of Massachusetts as well as a fan of facts, statistics, and increased tax revenue, you should be voting yes on referendum 4 this November. During this historical and horrible election, five states will have the chance to vote for something that we can actually be proud of. If the short legalization history of Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon are any indication, we’ll likely see massive increased tax revenue and decreased opioid usage once marijuana legalization begins. So our state will make money while combating one of the worst public health issues we’ve experienced to date. It’s a win-win, and don’t let old, out of touch politicians tell you otherwise. Watch the "No on 4" propaganda video below to see the type of critical thinking we're up against, it'd almost be funny if it wasn't so sad.