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October 15, 2012

'Med' marijuana question sparks debate

Amid the candidates seeking election to state and federal offices, three ballot questions will be facing voters across Cape Ann and the rest of the state when residents head for the polls Nov. 6.

Question 3 gives voters the chance to decide whether they favor medical marijuana in the Bay State or whether the idea should go up in smoke.

Advocates say the ballot initiative is aimed at granting legal access to a marijuana in a safe and secure manner, so that patients with chronic pain or other illnesses can benefit from its use and not suffer the stigma of feeling like criminals.

Some in law enforcement and drug prevention, however, are concerned that the initiative would provide a backdoor supply from the dispensaries, bolster use and dependency among young people, and increase crime associated with marijuana trafficking.

“The issue is very important from a public health standpoint,” said Peg Sallade, coordinator for the DanversCares prevention coalition. As a public employee, she cannot advocate for or against Question 3, but she said she is allowed to educate the public.

One of the concerns is that if Question 3 passes, young people may no longer perceive marijuana as an illegal drug.

“When we call an illegal drug a medicine, it creates a false impression among young people it’s safe to use,” Sallade said.

Even if the state ballot measure passes, the federal government still considers marijuana illegal.

“Regardless of state laws to the contrary,” according to the website for the Marijuana Resource Center of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, “there is no such thing as ‘medical’ marijuana under federal law. Marijuana continues to be a Schedule I substance, meaning that it has no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett is strongly opposed to Question 3.

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