Leaning “yes”? Please consider this…the devil is in the absence of details

Leaning “yes”? Please consider this…the devil is in the absence of details

Dear Voter:

We understand you may be leaning towards a “yes” vote on the medical marijuana Question 3.  We write to appeal to you to change your position and Vote No on this ballot initiative in the interest of public health and safety of Massachusetts.

In our last year of deep and rigorous research, we’ve learned that states that pass these measures are hard pressed to be able to change or alter them, and as they try, it becomes incredibly costly.  For example, this past week, the State of Rhode Island’s effort to tighten their medical marijuana law (limiting medical marijuana recommendations to physician’s only) was met with an ACLU law-suit.  The City Council of Boulder Colorado is now in hot pursuit of re-crafting their regulations because of the hundreds of thousands of dollars of loss to the city each year to manage and oversee the big and lucrative business of medical marijuana .

Ballot Question 3, with its expanse of loopholes and risks for exploitation is seriously flawed and must not pass if the Commonwealth wants to avoid the cost, nuisance and dangers that other states with similar laws are experiencing.  The burden will land on each and every Massachusetts city and town to deal with the mess it will create, if passed.

The concept of medical marijuana for many seems reasonable – we all have compassion for others who are suffering and want those with debilitating illnesses to have an array of treatment choices.  However, it is important to clarify that voters on Nov. 6 won’t be asked simply to approve the concept of medical marijuana, but instead they will vote on the actual nuts and bolts of a major new state law that would set up a new, unique, extensive big business industry that has not been vetted through our state legislators for standard protections and safeguards, and is in direct violation to federal law.

Here are just a few of the loopholes found and questions raised in the ballot question:

Zoning: Marijuana shops and grow operations could be allowed anywhere in a city or town, including areas located next to schools, churches, playgrounds, hospitals, athletic fields, parks, etc.

No age limits: There is no age limit specified in the law, meaning teenagers, or even children, would be eligible for lifetime medical marijuana cards

Tax breaks and subsidies: As a “non-profit” industry, treatment facilities and grow operations would not be subject to local property taxes, or sales taxes, even if sales exceed millions of dollars annually, and treatment center owners collect six-figure salaries.

No expiration date: Once issued, medical marijuana registration cards are valid for life. Patients would not have to be examined by a physician again.

No prescription: Physicians would not issue “prescriptions” for marijuana; they’d issue certifications that then become medical marijuana cards. These certifications would not be tracked by the state’s prescription monitoring program.

Shopping sprees: Since there will be no monitoring system in place, there will be no way to track whether a medical marijuana patient has made multiple purchases on multiple days from multiple shops – just so long as that person doesn’t get caught with more than a 60-day supply on them at any one time.

Grow co-ops: Personal care attendants could form co-ops, and grow marijuana in large-scale grow operations. These grow-houses would not be restricted to certain industrial areas, and could be sited in residential neighborhoods.

Most liberal restrictions this side of California: Massachusetts would be the only state other than California that gives physicians the sole discretion to determine what conditions should be treated with medical marijuana. Although the law specifically states that ALS, MS, AIDS and cancer are among those considered a “debilitating medical condition,” it also includes “other conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician.” This could include subjective conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress, headaches or sleep disorders.

DPH as DEA: The law places DPH in charge of enforcing all rules and regulations, including whether a shop is selling to only those with medical cards, whether a grow operation has proper security controls in place, or if its selling product out the back door. In addition, there would likely be a substantial budgetary impact on DPH. While the law claims registration fees will offset costs, the actual costs of properly enforcing the law (as a mini-DEA) will be in the millions of dollars – a price tag too high to be paid for by simple registration fees from 35 facilities.

There is growing evidence of buyers remorse in other states that have approved medical marijuana ballot questions.  In California, where the average medical marijuana card holder is a 30-something male with no underlying physical ailment, loose oversight and regulations have resulted in many communities moving to ban the shops after running into problems with neighborhood decay and addiction. One of the original drafters of that state’s ballot question has described the industry as “little more than dope dealers with store fronts.”

In Colorado, loose regulation has resulted in that state becoming a major black-market supplier for the rest of the nation. A recent DEA investigation found medical marijuana grown in Colorado, and sold out back doors, in 17 different states over a three-week period.  Also, in highlighting the ease at which medical marijuana can be diverted, a study of teens being treated for substance abuse in Colorado found that 74% of those surveyed had used or been given somebody else’s medical marijuana an average of 50 times.

All of this is without getting into the major prescription drug abuse problem we face in Massachusetts; a problem fueled by legal medications prescribed by physicians.

By voting No on Question 3 we are not closing the door to our chronically ill in Massachusetts; instead we are saying this is just not the right legislation for what we would like to accomplish with compassionate care.

We hope you will reconsider your position to see this ballot measure passed and stand strong with us an ever-increasing tide of informed voters against ballot question 3.  We know from research that this is a movement across the country to legalize marijuana on the backs of our most vulnerable.  Massachusetts is smarter than this and we all need to be fully informed to avoid being duped like other states have been.

Ballot Question 3 is binding. If it passes on November 6th, it will be very, very difficult – if not impossible for legislators to make adjustments to it. Stated in the 6 pages of law, ballot question 3 would be enacted on January 1st regardless of whether regulations are in place. People would be able to buy and grow marijuana unregulated until DPH gets the oversight measures in place. Given our stressed and underfunded state of DPH, developing the regulations on a new state drug dispensary and grow operation could take years – which means the system would go unregulated for a long time before adequate measures are put in place.
Ballot Question 3 also includes “Severability” language that makes it impossible to repeal if it doesn’t work out. If any clause, sentence or section of the measure is found to be flawed of invalid, the judgment is confined to that particular clause, sentence or section and does not affect the rest of the law. This means, if something goes awry, only small pieces of the law can be repealed at a time, the entire law could not be thrown out at once. This has created havoc for California and Colorado because they can only reverse course through costly legal battles, one small component at a time.

The No on Question 3 Team