Question 4 Opinion

By Joe Liebert

Overshadowed by the aftermath of president-elect Donald Trump’s historic upset of Hillary Clinton to win the United States presidency, the legalization of the use and sale of marijuana for recreational use was voted in by Massachusetts residents on November 8. This major decision was highly contested before the election, and there are strong reasons for both the legalization of recreational pot and for its contionued prohibition.

However, despite the legal reasons for continuing to criminalize the use of marijuana, its legalization will end up being what’s best for the state, and eventually for the country. In countries where marijuana and other drugs have been legalized or decriminalized, drug crimes and overall crime rates slowed down or even decreased in some cases.

A paper published in April 2009 by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, found that five years after the legalization of all drugs in Portugal, teen drug use dropped, the rate of HIV infection from the use of contaminated needles decreased, and the number of people seeking treatment for their drug abuse doubled.

Glenn Greenwald, who conducted the research in the paper, said that the legalization in Portugal “has enabled the government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does.”

Since marijuana was legalized in Colorado in 2012, some people have used its success as a supporting argument for legalization in other states, with others using negative data to show that the problems legalization would cause would outweigh its benefits.

And there is some negative data. Studies have shown that traffic deaths caused by marijuana use have increased and that teen use has increased.

On the flip side, more than half of Colorado residents think that legalization has been good for the state. The extreme marijuana culture that has pervaded the state’s culture is probably attributed to the novelty of marijuana in Colorado, as well as the industry of “marijuana tourism,” the phenomenon of people from other states coming to Colorado to experience the weed culture that has been created. As marijuana is legalized in more states and the novelty of legal marijuana becomes less of a factor, this issue will fade.

In terms of legal marijuana’s effect on the economy, Colorado created 18,005 full-time jobs and added about $2.4 billion to the state’s economy last year. There’s no question that the legalization of marijuana will benefit the state economy.

For better or for worse, Massachusetts will have to adapt to the presence of legal marijuana, although in my opinion the benefits will far outweigh the negatives.