Marijuana Measures Get Surprising Endorsements

The largest newspaper in Massachusetts and the third-largest paper in California urged voters to approve the marijuana legalization measures being considered in their respective states on Thursday.

The endorsements from the editorial boards of the Boston Globe and the San Diego Union-Tribune come as somewhat of a surprise to close observers of the cannabis debate, as both papers have long opposed efforts to reform marijuana laws.

“Using marijuana isn’t completely safe, and it isn’t completely harmless to others when users drive,” the Globe’s editorial board wrote. “But a social consensus is clearly emerging that pot’s real dangers just aren’t great enough to merit outlawing it anymore. While the authors of Question 4 could have written a much better law, they at least got the big picture right. Legal marijuana is coming. Let’s get on with it.”

In 2012, the paper opposed a medical cannabis initiative, and in 2008 it urged rejection of a marijuana decriminalization ballot measure. Voters went on to enact both initiatives by two-to-one margins.

The endorsement, while helpful to the legalization effort, wasn’t exactly glowing in its praise of the specific measure voters are being asked to approve.

“If the political leaders of the Commonwealth showed even the slightest interest in legalization, it would probably make sense to wait for lawmakers to produce a better-crafted proposal than the current ballot measure,” they wrote, calling out policymakers for continually refusing to take the issue up in a serious way. “But Question 4 is all we’ve got. The Globe endorses the yes campaign, despite the proposal’s many flaws, because the harm stemming from continued inaction on marijuana would be even greater.”

Over on the West Coast, the historically prohibitionist Union-Tribune editorial board issued a surprisingly strong endorsement of Proposition 64, which would legalize marijuana in California.

“We get why many worry about giving a de facto seal of acceptability to casual drug use,” they wrote. “But the state already is inundated with pot use because of Proposition 215, a lax 1996 medical marijuana law used by tens of thousands of Californians and sometimes gamed. The argument that it makes sense to regulate and tax the drug rather than accept a status quo of little regulation and taxation is powerful and persuasive.”

The editorial board’s endorsement follows those from several other major daily newspapers in California, including the first- and second-largest papers, the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.

In 2010, when Golden State voters considered a separate marijuana legalization initiative, all three editorial boards urged no votes. The measure was narrowly defeated.

In addition to the new Globe and Union-Tribune endorsements, legalizers got other relatively news on Thursday in the form of polls showing the California and Massachusetts ballot measures ahead.

The Public Policy Institute of California issued a survey showing that state’s legalization question leading among likely voters by a margin of 55 percent to 38 percent. Separately, Stanford University’s Hoover Institution found it leading 54 percent to 36 percent.

In Massachusetts, the legalization measure is ahead, but polling under 50 percent, a precarious place to be less than two weeks ahead of Election Day. A poll from Suffolk University and the Boston Globe showed Question 4 leading among likely voters by a margin of 49 percent to 42 percent.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.

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