1. Ballot Question 3 includes the same loophole that allows for widespread recreational pot use through the medical marijuana industries in California and Colorado. The proposed law lists specific conditions for which a doctor can recommend marijuana. However, the language also includes “other conditions” which would allow anyone to get marijuana for any reason (anxiety, pain, insomnia, ADHD, back pain, headaches, etc.). Regardless of whether this initiative passes, a doctor cannot “prescribe” marijuana because it’s illegal under federal law. Doctors would only be able to recommend marijuana. “Millions of Massachusetts residents would potentially be eligible for medical marijuana under Question 3,” boasts a Colorado attorney who’s opened a new office here in Boston looking to profit from November’s vote. His web site states that the catchall phrase in the proposed law “other conditions” allows for maladies including “chronic pain and mental conditions – such as anxiety and depression”. Coming from Colorado, he would know. Currently there are over 100,000 medical marijuana cardholders in Colorado. 95% of them were issued for maladies in the “other condition” category. 70% of cardholders are white, 30-something, healthy males with a history of drug abuse.
2. There would be no age limit or expiration date on a recommendation, and no requirement for parental consent; teenagers, or even children, would be eligible for lifetime medical marijuana cards to grow or buy marijuana for use. Under this law, card-holders would not have to be examined by a physician again.
3. The law would allow people to grow marijuana in their home – anyone over the age of 21, even those with felony convictions. Personal care attendants would need no specific training and could form co-ops, to grow marijuana in large-scale grow operations. These growhouses would NOT be restricted to certain industrial areas, and could be sited in residential neighborhoods. This is the same structure in the California and Colorado law that has caused a booming business of “home grows”, where people rent or purchase homes and use that home for marijuana growing. A whole house is turned into a green house for pot. And pot has a very strong, skunky aroma. Some home grows can be smelled a block away. Others draw sketchy traffic all through the night as people come in to purchase their pot around the clock. A drug that remains illegal under federal law, no banks will do business with a “medical” marijuana business owner – so it’s cash business only. And this makes these places magnets for theft. Home grows are often protected by people with guns – and draw crime and violence as theft is pervasive.
4. The law would allow for 35 marijuana “treatment centers” in the first year, up to five in a county. The law allows for more to be established in future years. There is no limit to the number of “treatment centers” in the law. This is the loophole that has caused cities and communities in other states to be overrun by “treatment centers”. In 1996 Los Angeles began with a few dozen too, but ballooned to over 900 in a decade. In Denver, pot shops outnumber McDonalds and Starbucks combined!
5. Zoning: Marijuana “treatment centers” 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. Treatment centers are nothing more than pot stores – they sell all strands of raw pot and “medibles” – candy, cookies, fudge, ice cream, gelato, pastes, you name it – all and any foods can be infused with marijuana. In California, they called them treatment stores in the beginning, but now they’re called “clubs”. We call them pot shops – or pot stores. Anyone 21 years or older could own and operate a pot store, with no special training – not even a high school diploma. No pharmacist, doctor or medical professional would be on staff. In California and Colorado, they’ve had big employment campaigns targeting high school graduates and college age kids to work in them.
6. As a “non-profit” industry, treatment facilities and grow operations would NOT be subject to property taxes, or sales taxes, even if sales exceed millions of dollars annually, and treatment center owners collect six-figure salaries. 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. Beyond the licensing fee, there is no revenue to set up the separate, unique government run dispensary system or the regulation, inspections and enforcement to oversee it. Our currently stressed, underfunded DPH is charged with that job, the very agency that just cost taxpayers millions with their drug lab debacle caused by one employee. This month, Boulder Colorado’s City Council is working to re-craft their marijuana pot store regulation because their public health department loses hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in the administrative costs to oversee and regulate them. (For context, in 2007 a “treatment center” opened in Almeda County, California. The first year sales revenues were $79K, the second year were $1.3 million, the 3rd year they brought in $21 million, and in the first 6 months of the fourth year revenues were a whopping $26.3 million)
7. People would be able to carry a 60 day supply of pot on their person and in their vehicle at any time. An ounce of marijuana is roughly 100 joints. When the State of Washington’s passed their ballot referendum, their DPH ultimately determined a 60 day supply to be 24 ounces plus 15 marijuana plants. If that sets precedent, Ballot Question 3 would allow a person to carry over 2400 joints at a time – that’s a lot of pot! Given the black market value of the drug and the current economic times, that amount practically begs an individual to sell it for personal, illicit profit. 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. In Denver, 74% of kids in treatment for addiction report getting their marijuana from a medical marijuana holder a median of 50 times. Each year, there are more and more documented incidents of diverted medical marijuana from other states (like Maine and Colorado) in the hands of our Massachusetts teens. Pot stores and medical marijuana systems like the one being proposed in Ballot Question 3 increase access and acceptability among teens. Massachusetts just opened its fourth recovery high school and we’re slated for a fifth next year in Worcester. These high schools are filled with kids being treated for pot addiction. Pot puts more kids in treatment in Massachusetts and across the country more than all other illicit drugs combined. Teen marijuana use rates are currently 30% higher than the national average.
8. In California and Colorado communities and cities are furiously working to shut pot stores down because of increased crime, neighborhood decay and addiction. In September the LA City Council unanimously voted to ban all 900+ pot shops. Santa Monica’s City Council unanimously put a moratorium on pot shops, and Berkeley – the heart of recreational pot use in this country – declared a pot shop a “public nuisance”.
9. Ballot Question 3 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 component at a time. Using the advantage of severability language, the newly enriched medical marijuana trade makes it expensive and difficult to amend passed ballot referendums. We’ve learned this from other states including neighboring Rhode Island, where an attempt by their Department of Public Health to tighten up their medical marijuana law was met by a lawsuit filed by the ACLU – a group funded by drug legalization interest groups.
10. If passed, the law would be enacted on January 1st regardless of whether regulations have been put in place. Included in the proposed law is a provision that says people can grow and buy marijuana for medicinal purposes even if DPH has not established regulations. This means the entire medical marijuana system would begin and be in practice UNREGULATED until DPH is able to establish its plan for oversight – which could mean a year or two or more.
11. If passed, Massachusetts would be the only state other than California that gives a single physician the sole discretion to determine what conditions should be treated with medical marijuana. And there’s no limit on the number of recommendations a single physician can make. It is this leniency that has drawn out the worst in doctors in other states. In one case in Oregon a single doctor signed 35% of all medical marijuana card recommendations in one year, amounting to an average of 29 per day at $200 per signature.
On November 6, 2012, by voting No on Question 3 we are not closing the door to our suffering and chronically ill in Massachusetts; instead we are simply saying this is not the right law for what we would like to accomplish with compassionate care.