Doctors Support Marijuana Legalization in Massachusetts

Question 4 on the Massachusetts ballot would legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. A group of doctors in the Bay State is wholeheartedly in favor of the effort.

"I'm here to support legalizing marijuana fully,” said J. Wesley Boyd, MD, PhD on the steps on the State House Friday morning.

Boyd and more than 100 hundred other Massachusetts physicians are voting yes on Question 4.

If it passes, they say it comes with many benefits, including decriminalizing the market and eliminating racial disparities.

"The laws have been applied heavily toward minorities and the poor," said Boyd. "If the police had been busting down doors on upper-middle class white people in the Back Bay or Beacon Hill years ago, this issue would have been settled."

"The FBI, in September, released a statistic that in 2015 greater than 500,000 Americans were arrested and prosecuted for simple possession,” said Jordan Tishler, MD, a cannabis physician and spokesperson for Doctors for Cannabis Regulation.

Doctors also say they could have more honest conversations with their patients and ensure they're getting the drug from a safe place.

"The current system isn't working. They're getting it from the street. It could be filled with pesticides. It could be laced with fentanyl,” said Susan H. Lucas, MD.

Those who oppose Question 4, like Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, said it jeopardizes public safety.

To support his views, Baker referenced a wrong-way crash in Vermont that killed five teens. According to a toxicology report, the driver who caused the crash had "significant" levels of THC in his blood.

"There is no way to measure driving while high," said Baker. "It's a huge issue for those in law enforcement who've seen increases in fatalities associated with driving while high in states that have legalized recreational marijuana."

Some doctors don't agree with that. They argue that other substances, like tobacco and alcohol, can be more deadly.

"Tobacco is the number one killer in our midst. Alcohol is the number three killer in our midst," said Boyd.

If Question 4 passes, anyone 21 or older can use marijuana recreationally and a household of two or more could grow up to 12 plants.

The 117 physicians who support the bill say a study shows it would increase the state's revenue like it has in Colorado, where recreational use of the drug became legal in 2012.

"By the year 2020, we would generate about $100 million in new taxes based on about a billion dollars in marijuana sales in Massachusetts," said Jim Borghesani, communications director for Yes on 4.

"I think the best thing for all of us to do at this point is acknowledge it's a bad question," said Baker. "Acknowledge that we're not going to be able to stay ahead of it based on the way it's written."

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