Come every election, there’s a lot at stake on the ballot. In Massachusetts, one of the initiatives is Question 4 which proposes the legalization, regulation, and taxation of recreational marijuana (Ballotpedia). What impact could this have on a state that has already decriminalized the drug? To find out more, I attended The Citizens’ Choice: Legalizing Recreational Marijuana presented by The Edward. M Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate and WGBH.
The program commenced with remarks from Dr. Jean F. MacCormack, President of the EMK Institute, on Senator Kennedy’s vision for the site as a center of civic engagement. Representative Jonathon Hect (D-Watertown) followed with an overview of the Citizen’s Initiative Review. This pilot program selected a random sample of the state population to weigh the pros and cons of Question 4 and draft their findings in an official document (CIRMA2016).
The focus of the night revolved around an active panel discussion moderated by Jim Braude, host of WGBH’s Greater Boston. The speakers featured Dr. Kevin Sabet, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida; Madeline Martinez, Director Emeritus of Oregon NORML; Andrew Freedman, Director of Marijuana Coordination for the State of Colorado; Massachusetts State Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester); and Dr. Kevin Hill, Addiction Psychiatrist and Clinical Researcher (Eventbrite). Whether it was showing concern over the commercialization of marijuana, defending personal freedoms, or using scientific evidence to highlight potential health risks of recreational usage, each panelist shared a perspective on this layered subject. Adding to the quality material provided, moderator Jim Braude pressed for answers to common misconceptions that the audience would benefit from knowing.
This event was a great opportunity to engage the public in politics. Unlike political debates which tend to be about aggressively promoting platforms, the discussion excelled as an interactive and educational experience. As a resident of MA, I feel confident in making an informed decision on Question 4 heading into the voting booth. To relive the program, watch here.
Which sources are you relying on to stay up-to-date with state ballot initiatives? Should there be a stronger emphasis on public outreach events?