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Did a Massachusetts Senate Panel Mislead Voters About Legalization?

October 13, 2016
Cannabis supporters in the legalization-battleground state of Massachusetts are pushing back against a state Senate report, claiming its “misconstrued statistics and unfounded speculation” have misinformed voters about legalization in the lead-up to November’s election.

The report, published in March, was the result of Colorado trip taken by members of the Special Senate Committee on Marijuana to see the legal cannabis industry for themselves. After roughly a year of work, the Herald News reports, the committee released a report that was highly critical of the Massachusetts ballot measure, Question 4.

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“The Report covers a wide range of important issues,” begins the Yes on 4 campaign’s rebuttal, released this week, “but however well-intentioned, it is flawed because it contains inaccuracies and speculative conclusions concerning the implications of regulating recreational marijuana.”

The lawmaker who led the Senate committee, Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) is now part of a steering committee for the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, a group formed by Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

That coalition of officials has lobbed questionable claims at legalization, too, arguing that cannabis is a “gateway drug” and warning that legalization would lead to more teens consuming cannabis and could worsen the state’s opioid epidemic. Based on available evidence, none of those claims is true.

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U.S. Attorney General Says Cannabis Is Not a Gateway Drug

Voters at the polls next month, it continued, “Voters at the polls in November should base their decisions on facts and sound policy arguments rather than the misconstrued statistics and unfounded speculation of misinformed public officials,” the Yes campaign said.

Lewis, for his part, released a statement saying that he was “confident that we produced a thorough, comprehensive, fair and balanced report.” The rebuttal, he said, was “authored by a law firm who is a hired gun for the commercial cannabis industry.”

Observers across the country are watching to see how Massachusetts voters decide Question 4. Travel writer and PBS host Rick Steves is in the state this week talking to audiences about what he’s seen in his home state of Washington as well as other legal states, such as Colorado and Oregon. On Wednesday the mild-mannered 51-year-old levied a harsh criticism of Massachusetts lawmakers.

When it comes to cannabis, he told a crowd in Boston, “Your legislators don’t have the courage to learn about it.”

Gage Peake's Bio Image

Gage Peake

Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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  • lovingc

    Here’s an extract from “Notes on Democracy” by Henry Louis Mencken, written in 1926, during Federal Alcohol Prohibition (1919-1933)

    The Prohibitionists, when they foisted their brummagem cure-all upon the country under cover of the war hysteria, gave out that their advocacy of it was based upon a Christian yearning to abate drunkenness, and so abolish crime, poverty and disease. They preached a [crime, poverty and disease free] millennium, and no doubt convinced hundreds of thousands of naive and sentimental persons, not themselves Puritans, nor even democrats.

    That millennium, as everyone knows, has failed to come in. Not only are crime, poverty and disease undiminished, but drunkenness itself, if the police statistics are to be believed, has greatly increased. The land rocks with the scandal. Prohibition has made the use of alcohol devilish and even fashionable, and so vastly augmented the number of users. The young of both sexes, mainly innocent of the cup under license, now take to it almost unanimously.

    In brief, Prohibition has not only failed to work the benefits that its proponents promised in 1917; it has brought in so many new evils that even the mob has turned against it. But do the Prohibitionists admit the fact frankly, and repudiate their original nonsense? They do not. On the contrary, they keep on demanding more and worse enforcement statutes — that is to say, more and worse devices for harassing and persecuting their opponents.

    The more obvious the failure becomes, the more shamelessly they exhibit their genuine motives. In plain words, what moves them is the psychological aberration called sadism. They lust to inflict inconvenience, discomfort, and whenever possible, disgrace upon the persons they hate, which is to say: upon everyone who is free from their barbarous theological superstitions, and is having a better time in the world than they are.

    They cannot stop the use of alcohol, nor even appreciably diminish it, but they can badger and annoy everyone who seeks to use it decently, and they can fill the jails with men taken for purely artificial offences, and they can get satisfaction thereby for the Puritan yearning to browbeat and injure, to torture and terrorize, to punish and humiliate all who show any sign of being happy. And all this they can do with a safe line of policemen and judges in front of them; always they can do it without personal risk.
    Replace alcohol with cannabis and you will see we are in the same place now 90 years later. Legalize!