EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 14, 2012

Column: Pondering my positions on the ballot questions

Barbara Anderson
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — I’m glad I’ve lived long enough to be able to vote on a “right to die” issue.

Also glad that the Legislature worked out a compromise bill on the “right to repair” issue, so that both sides are now urging voters to reject Question 1 and I don’t have to understand it.

I understand Question 2, and feel so strongly about it that I once hoped to do an initiative petition on the subject myself, starting a new organization called “Whose life is it, anyhow?” when I found the time. Now I’m the age where I might soon appreciate the right to choose “death with dignity.”

Of course we must honor those whose religious beliefs don’t allow them this choice; nothing in Question 2 keeps them from clinging to the last painful hours of their lives if they want.

The strangest argument the “No” side uses is that “life is a gift.” Yes, it is, one for which I am grateful every day of my life: thanks again, God. Now, this gift belongs to me, and I can choose how I want to use it. Thank you, God, for giving me free will. Thank you, Founding Fathers, for the First Amendment, which doesn’t allow any religion to impose itself on those who don’t belong to it. Finally, thank you, “Yes on dignity” campaign, for collecting all those signatures, giving me and other voters a chance to pass this law.

One argument used by opponents is that people can commit suicide now if they want to, though by generally more violent means. I’d posit that fewer people will prematurely kill themselves when receiving a bad medical prognosis, if they know that if they enjoy a few months more of life to the point of physical weakness, they will received assistance when they are finally really ready to go. So Question 2 becomes life-enhancing, as well as merciful.

Easy stuff out of the way, on to Question 3: “Medical use of marijuana.” You might think that the same principal of self-empowerment that drives Question 2 would apply here: my body, my choice to use marijuana. If the issue was this straightforward, I’d easily vote yes. I have no desire to use marijuana or any other drug that messes in any way with my mind, unless there’s a medical condition that is already interfering with my enjoyment of said mind and life. So if everyone was like me, there would be no reason to forbid marijuana prescriptions, just as now there’s no reason to forbid prescribing Oxycontin or morphine to relieve pain.

Wait! I seem to recall that a few years ago, Congressman Stephen Lynch wanted to make Oxycontin illegal for everyone because kids in his district were abusing it. I thought this was crazy: make sick people endure their pain because some idiots are abusing the drugs that relieve it?

This argument is similar to the argument against casinos: some people are weak, and will become addicted gamblers; so people who just enjoy occasional gaming shouldn’t be allowed to? Prohibition also catered to potential addicts, trying to forbid something normally pleasant that some will abuse.

Marijuana has been proven to help people suffering from some terrible illnesses and difficult treatments. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be prescribed by our doctors if they think it will help us. We can just take the prescription to our local pharmacy, along with our blood pressure and cholesterol prescriptions, and get it filled.

Wait! Question 3 creates 35 state distribution centers for marijuana prescriptions, as well as letting people grow it at home. We can’t take the prescription to our local pharmacy because even if Massachusetts made medical marijuana legal, the federal government still considers it illegal and this interferes with our pharmacies carrying it.

The many abuses of the law in California have led to the state shutting down some distribution centers there. Hey, all I want is to inhale a little plant if I’m feeling nauseous!

I thought an easy way out of this question might be marinol, the synthetic marijuana that is said to have some of the same positive effects. Checked it out at my local pharmacy: 60 pills cost $1,000. Whoa. Pass me some little plants and a box of dirt for my sunny windowsill.

Here’s where it gets tricky. My friends at the Small Property Association say that “Question 3 on the November ballot poses problems for landlords” because of the provision allowing pot to be grown at home, combined with landlords’ legal inability to choose their tenants and control their premises. “Though the ballot question gives protection against forfeiture and arrest under state law, it offers no protection from the federal forfeit laws under which no amount of marijuana is legal.”

If the feds raid the building and find the plants, they can charge the landlord and take the entire building – just as they can take your home, car or boat if they find an illegal substance there. Bet some of you didn’t know that.

So, No on 1, Yes on 2, and I don’t yet know what to do on 3.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and a regular contributor to the opinion pages.