Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Opponents Win Challenge, Frustrate Progress

This coming November, Massachusetts residents will vote on a ballot question concerning medical marijuana. And now, opponents of medical marijuana have claimed that the standing version of the ballot question is misleading. Justice Robert J. Cordy of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, on June 7, ruled in favor of the opponents.

Because of his decision about the ballot question, the “yes” section of the ballot question must now be re-written by Attorney General Martha Coakley and state Secretary William Galvin. Then, the re-written section must be submitted to the Supreme Judicial Court for review.

Heidi Heilman, the president of the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance, stated that she would like the question to explain three things: that, under the proposal, 35 dispensaries would be created in the first year, that patients would be able to possess an undefined 60-day supply of medical marijuana, and that some people would even be able to grow marijuana in their own homes. She explained that, as the question is currently written, she finds it to be vague and that it misinforms voters. She also continues to be opposed to the use of the term “medical marijuana,” which she and her group believe is misleading, because she says the drug is federally classified as having no medical value.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance/Committee for Compassionate Medicine, which proposed the ballot question, said that the question clearly states what would happen under the proposed law. This is a responsible group of medical, legal, and public health professionals. And no matter what they have done to ensure that a safe, reasonable and balanced proposal is put forward to the public on this matter, the above opponents have tried to frustrate it at every turn.

Attorney General Coakley’s offices said that they will ensure that the re-written ballot question is “fair, neutral and informative for voters.” My view: It is already.

As a Norfolk County Massachusetts drug crimes attorney, I am opposed to the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance’s specific efforts to defeat this reasonable public health measure. Why? I have spent years watching cancer patients, chronically ill and terminally ill patients needlessly be restricted to largely one class of painkillers prescribed for severe pain: Opiates, commonly known as Percocet and Vicodin. While effective when used for short-term, patients who take opiates long-term almost always build up a tolerance to them, requiring the patient to take higher and higher dosages to achieve the same level of pain relief as when they first began taking the drugs. This, of course, leads the patient to become addicted to them, creating yet another problem.

Yet facts have never meant much to the anti-drug crowd. Thy run around like Chicken Little, screaming that the sky is going to fall if, God forbid, the state or the nation’s drug policy became sane. To my mind, their attitude in these debates has always been, “Don’t bother us with the truth.” Notiwthstanding, here, once again, are two widely accepted facts: 1) Despite all the needless hype and drama by “anti-drug” advocates, marijuana has never scientifically – or more importantly, pragmatically – been shown to be addictive. People may like it, but it isn’t chemically addictive in the brain. It simply isn’t, and that argument ended (or should have ended) a long time ago. 2) Marijuana has been consistently proven both scientifically and in practical use to eliminate or substantially reduce chronic pain, prevent the physical wasting that so often occurs with cancer and other chronic diseases, and ease suffering with little to none of the negative side effects that opiate drugs bring.

By opposing this ballot question at every turn, these people are helping to insure that the patients who need and can benefit from medical marijuana, would potentially be charged with a Massachusetts Possession of a Class D Substance if they possess more than one ounce of marijuana. How caring. How Comapssionate. How reasonable.

Don’t you just wish they’d pipe down and go home?