Yes and no on Question 4
The reviews are in and it appears the view is near-universal – Question 4, as written, is a dumpster fire that would legalize having and using pot but not the ability to sell it immediately. Many also agree it would give the marijuana industry a heavy hand in fashioning regulations they will operate under.
But where the state’s major media players differ on the referendum is on whether or not it should pass. The Boston Herald calls for a “no” vote, citing the ballot question’s “exceedingly complex” wording and individual pieces of the proposed legislation such as the low tax rate that would be imposed as well as the lack of any kind of scientific test to measure marijuana intoxication in drivers.
“It therefore has no place on the ballot as drafted, but since it’s there the appropriate thing for Massachusetts voters to do is vote NO,” says the tabloid’s editorial board. The Lowell Sun has also come out against the question for many of the same reasons, likening it to Obamacare because “it’s replete with unintended consequences.”
The Boston Globe cites the same problems with Question 4 but urges passage nonetheless, saying legislators can tackle all the problems when they return to work after the election. The Globe rejects arguments that lawmakers can fashion a better bill from scratch if the referendum fails, saying they had numerous chances and never stepped up to the plate before. This, the editorial board says, puts their feet to the fire with voter approval.
Globe columnist Joan Vennochi wrote a strong anti-legalization column on the op-ed page that runs just below the paper’s legalize-it editorial. Like the Herald and many opponents of Question 4, Vennochi cites the ham-handed crafting of the bill and the free rein the expectant billion-dollar marijuana industry will have in overseeing itself.
“This is an industry-driven mess of a proposal,” Vennochi writes. “That’s why I’m voting against it.”
It’s not at all unusual for the two major Boston papers to come down on opposite sides of such a polarizing issue. What’s head-scratching is they grab onto the same arguments to make their respective cases. But the Globe’s reasoning is a little more confusing, basically calling for passage of a referendum and then gutting it and remaking it.
With little suspense from the state’s voters on the presidential election and little in the way of legislative races to excite the populace, the ballot questions will be the ones to draw people to the polls. Question 4 is, undoubtedly, the most contentious issue on the ballot, probably even more so than the referendum to lift the charter school cap.
What happens in Massachusetts on the question will have consequences nationally as five other states are contemplating legalization. This could be a harbinger of what will happen throughout the country. And that won’t likely be a mixed message.
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