Yes or No on “Question 4”

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Jack Gardner and Ethan Como, Contributor

As of December 15th, 2016 the use of marijuana, as a recreational drug, has been legalized. Better known as “Question 4”, the law passed with a majority vote of 53.57% in favor of its legalization. For individuals 21 years and older, it is now legal to possess up to one ounce of marijuana in public and grow up to six plants at your residence. Starting in January of 2018, marijuana dispensaries will open which will offer various strains and concentrations. Some believe that legalization can only bring positive changes to the Commonwealth; others believe that it is just the beginning of the end.

A large proportion of Massachusetts residents believe that marijuana’s benefits outweigh its negative aspects. One major positive that pro-marijuana individuals see is the large increase in tax revenue that the drug will bring into Massachusetts. In states that have legalized it, an increase in tax revenue has allowed the government to improve schools. For example, schools in Colorado have seen improvements in physical aspects, as well as technological advancements. Another major upside to legalization is the vast decrease in incarceration. Making marijuana legal takes away thousands of drug cases for its possession. Without a legal penalty for possession, the number of incarcerations in the state will decrease, thus saving money for the state and its residents.

Since Question 4 was passed, the fear of its negative effects could potentially become a reality. The drug could bring a higher risk of motor vehicle accidents, negative health effects on the youth population, an increased risk of developing psychotic illness, and many more. Driving while under the influence of Marijuana can be a serious problem, comparable to drunk driving. In the state of Washington, pot was involved in 17% of fatal crashes in the year 2014, compared to an 8% involvement in 2013, prior to its legalization as a recreational drug. Legalization creates an overall perception that the drug is safe and comes without any significant negative effects. This perception could be detrimental to the youth of the Commonwealth, creating a belief that the drug is safe to use for people of their age. Frequent use of the drug can increase the risk for developing psychotic illness such as schizophrenia. All in all, the use of marijuana comes with multiple negative effects, not only for the user, but the people near and around the user.

The result from marijuana legalization is far from known. The only place we can look for a hint on what the future may hold is Colorado. But, we can only predict the short-term since Colorado has only had legal marijuana for two years. There is no doubt that tax revenue will rise and the individuals who benefit from its usage will be consuming it legally. Yet, all its negatives are still far from proven. We aren’t sure what the future for legalized marijuana holds, but maybe some good will come out of it.