Pubdate: Thu, 01 Nov 2012
Source: Patriot Ledger, The  (Quincy, MA)
Copyright: 2012 GateHouse Media, Inc.
Author: Adam Vaccaro


With some polls showing more than 60 percent support, the ballot 
question seeking to establish a medical marijuana program in the 
state appears likely to pass Tuesday. Supporters say if Question 3 is 
approved Tuesday, the use of medical marijuana will relieve the pain 
of Massachusetts residents dealing with serious illnesses.

The law, however, would bring little economic benefit to the state, 
said Harvard University economist and drug law expert Jeffrey Miron.

The ballot initiative would allow for the establishment of 35 medical 
marijuana treatment centers. The centers would provide marijuana to 
patients struggling with medical conditions, including cancer, 
glaucoma, AIDS and "other conditions, as determined in writing by a 
qualifying patient's physician."

The centers would add jobs to the economy, Miron said, but the 
increase in employment would be negligible.

The ballot initiative would bar dispensaries from hiring anyone who 
has been arrested for a felony drug offense.

The opportunity for tax revenue is also slim, Miron said. Because the 
centers would be nonprofits, municipalities would not be able to tax 
the property.

Nor would the initiative generate sales tax revenue because the state 
exempts prescription medication. Miron said that even if the state 
Legislature found a way around the restriction, it would risk sending 
customers back to the black market.

Employees at the treatment centers would pay income taxes, but Miron 
said that revenue would not be significant.

Prospective dispensaries would be required to pay application fees to 
the state, but only enough to cover the costs of instituting the 
medical marijuana program.

Miron said full legalization and taxing of marijuana at the federal 
level would have a far more significant economic impact, generating 
an estimated $15 billion annually in revenue.

Heidi Heilma, a representative of the Massachusetts Prevention 
Alliance, which opposes the ballot question, said that even if 
medical marijuana did significantly strengthen the economy, the 
organization would still oppose the initiative.

"It's an industry that capitalizes on human addiction," Heilma said.

The group sponsoring the initiative, the Committee for Compassionate 
Medicine, did not respond to requests for comment.

Voters in Arkansas also will vote next week whether to approve 
medical marijuana, which is legal in 17 states.

In Montana, voters will be asked whether to keep the current medical 
marijuana law or place greater restrictions on who qualifies and how 
much marijuana they can obtain.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom