Thursday November 8, 2012

Ready or not, medical marijuana will be legal next year in Massa chusetts. The one-sided passage of Question 3 on the state ballot Tuesday strongly indicates that the state, and the nation as well, must revisit their attitude toward the drug.

Marijuana usage has helped ease the pain of cancer sufferers and reduces muscle stiffness in those afflicted with debilitating illnesses. Opponents of legalization didn’t dispute this but had difficulties with the vagueness of the law when it comes to determining who is eligible to receive the drug and the placement of distribution centers around the state. The state De partment of Public Health, already under fire for a lack of oversight at a drug-testing lab shut down after the alleged mishandling of evidence, is charged with establishing and enforcing medical marijuana regulations. This must be done quickly and it will require an increased enforcement budget for the DPH.

Some medical marijuana foes asserted that Question 3 was a stalking horse for the legalization of marijuana. Whether or not this is true, the easy passage of the law Tuesday, and the one-sided passage four years ago of a referendum decriminalizing possession of marijuana in amounts under one ounce, suggests that it is time the state began a conversation about legalization. On Tuesday, the states of Washington and Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana, setting up a showdown with the federal government.

Question 2, which called for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide, was narrowly defeated after polls in late summer and early fall indicated it would pass. The law was opposed by both the medical and religious communities, and foes, who outspent Death With Dignity advocates by a 5-to-1 margin, launched an aggressive campaign against the ballot question in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s vote.

The closeness of the vote reveals genuine concern in Massachusetts about end-of-life care and the inability of patients and families to address issues of health and mortality that are of great emotional and financial significance. The foes of Question 2 are obligated to address these issues for their patients and parishioners and their families.

Four months ago, the state had no Right to Repair law on the books, but now it has two -- the law passed this summer by the Legislature and the law passed easily by voters via Question 1 Tuesday. Unfor tunately, they differ in the time allotted before car manufacturers must begin providing proprietary information to car owners and independent dealers. Ballot questions, which tend to be simplistic and vague about their implications, can create a tangled mess, and the Legislature will have to sort this one out.