In a surprising move, the Boston Globe has endorsed the Massachusetts cannabis legalization initiative, Question 4. In an op-ed published Thursday morning, the Globe editorial board announced its support of the initiative. Opponents of the measure, the paper argued, have “inadvertently provided the best reason to vote for the measure.”
Those opponents, which include political heavy hitters like Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, have refused to consider legalizing and regulating cannabis through legislative action, and came out early against Question 4. Their opposition drove early negative opinion on the measure, but voters have swung the other way since early September. The most recent poll released on Oct. 19 has Question 4 leading 55 percent to 40 percent, with five percent undecided.
The Globe editorial board wrote that Question 4 could have been “better-crafted,” but the current initiative is all they’ve got to work with. And it’s a good start:
“The Globe endorses the yes campaign, despite the proposal’s many flaws, because the harm stemming from continued inaction on marijuana would be even greater.”
Massachusetts decriminalized cannabis possession in 2008, but state law left cannabis in a kind of “legal netherworld,” the Globe wrote, as it was legal to possess up to one ounce, but no one could legally sell it.
The newspaper isn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of legal cannabis. But its editorial board concluded that the harms of prohibition far outweigh the uncertain outcomes of regulated legalization:
“Using marijuana isn’t completely safe, and it isn’t completely harmless to others when users drive. But a social consensus is clearly emerging that pot’s real dangers just aren’t great enough to merit outlawing it anymore. While the authors of Question 4 could have written a much better law, they at least got the big picture right. Legal marijuana is coming. Let’s get on with it.”
Question 4 would create a legal marketplace for cannabis, creating thousands of jobs, and if done right, could end the illicit market. As the Globe mentions, the referendum calls for an unusually low 3.75 percent tax, on top of the normal state sales tax. The state’s legislature, the Globe argues, should look into raising the tax if the initiative passes.
Washington State’s cannabis excise tax is 37 percent; Colorado’s is 29 percent. California is proposing a 15 percent excise tax on adult-use cannabis in its Proposition 64.
The Globe noted that Massachusetts lawmakers have complained that improving the legal language in Question 4 would require them to clear time in their busy schedules. “Respectfully, today’s Legislature is by and large the same group of lawmakers who somehow found the time to write legislation for the horse-racing industry,” the paper responded. “They can survive the inconvenience that their constituents may impose on their calendars.”