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November 2, 2012

Medical pot foes see 'crisis' in ballot question

BOSTON — Opponents of the Tuesday statewide ballot question that would legalize marijuana for medical use in Massachusetts warned on Wednesday that voter approval of the initiative would unleash a “surefire public health and safety crisis in the Commonwealth” by increasing the available supply of marijuana to teenagers and young adults.

John Sofis Scheft, of the Bellotti Law Group, said the proposed law is rife with loopholes similar to those in states like California and Colorado that will lead to a proliferation of dispensaries and increased rates of addiction.

Despite being heavily outspent and trailing in the polls, Scheft said opponents are counting on voters to oppose the question once they learn what’s contained in the ballot initiative. “When they just look at the laws they always say to us, ‘Not this law. Not this way.’ Massachusetts is smarter than this,” he said.

Supporters of Question 3 say medical marijuana would be strictly regulated, will lessen the need for narcotics like morphine and OxyContin, and will provide a new option to “ease the suffering” of patients with cancer and other debilitating conditions.

Matt Allen, from the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, disputed the characterization of the ballot proposal as being in line with laws from other states where there have been problems with large numbers of dispensaries cropping up and easy access to the drug.

“There are no loopholes in this law. It is absolutely based on the best practices and lessons learned from the 17 others states. This is going to be nothing like that,” Allen said. He said the proposed law would allow doctors and patients to make appropriate decisions about treatment for diseases and chronic pain. Allen also said there was a limit of up to 35 dispensaries for the state unlike in California, and the ballot question proposes a new felony to protect against unauthorized access or distribution.

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