Medical Marijuana and End of Life Decisions on November Ballot

By Meredith McCulloch

On election day, November 6, voters will be presented with three initiative petitions for approval, an opportunity that comes from a right to petition written into the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780. One of the three, nicknamed the “Right to Repair,” was approved by the legislature on the last day of their session, and will become law on November 6. The other two await the voters’ decision.

Briefly, the questions this year are:

Question #1, “Availability of Motor Repair Information.” An agreement on this law was reached by the legislature and the governor on the last day of the session August 1. The question remains on the ballot because it was too late to remove it, but both sides are encouraging a “no” vote.  Massachusetts is the first state to adopt such a law.  Proponents described the bill as expanding consumer choice and providing a level playing field for repair services.  Opponents argued that it would require giving up proprietary information and could lead to higher prices on components.

Question #2, “Prescribing Medication to End Life” would allow a licensed doctor upon request to prescribe medication that would end a patient’s life. The basic requirements are that the patient must be mentally capable to make such a decision; must have been diagnosed with a terminal disease, and is likely to die within six months. Two doctors must confirm that the illness is terminal. The patient must make the request at least two separate times separated by fifteen days. Additional criteria and safeguards for patients and doctors are built into the law. Proponents often speak of the right to limit suffering and see decisions on end of life as a civil liberty. Many opponents have religious objections to any action to end a life and others fear that patients could be pressured into making the request against their best interests.

Question #3, “Medical Use of Marijuana” would allow the medical use of marijuana for relief of symptoms of certain illness. Certification by a doctor would be required for a sixty-day supply and other restrictions would apply. Supporters believe the availability of marijuana will be beneficial to those with diseases such as cancer, ALS, AIDs, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.  Opponents worry that it would lead to greater use of the drug and subsequent addiction, not only to marijuana, but also to other drugs.  In July, Associate Justice Robert J. Cordy, acting on behalf of the Supreme Judicial Court, approved a change in the ballot description which spelled out that the drug would be dispensed through state regulated and authorized outlets.

For questions to appear on the ballot, their sponsors overcame several hurdles. First, signatures of ten certified voters who agree to sponsor the question were obtained. Their names appear on the petition forms for the collection of signatures. Next, 68,911 signatures had to be collected to allow the question to be sent to the legislature for possible adoption. Each year the number is calculated at 3% of the number of ballots cast for governor in the most recent general election.  Finally, when the legislature failed to act on each bill, an additional 17,228 signatures were required for the questions to appear on the ballot.

The questions are complex, and voters wanting to make informed decisions will have many opportunities to learn more. At this time the complete questions, including pro and con positions, are on the Secretary of the Commonwealth website.  A packet of voter information including the questions will be mailed from that office as the election date draws near.  Proponents and opponents have begun to launch campaigns to gather votes.  Stay tuned.

For the official description visit the Secretary of the State site at:

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Alan Bragg
September 21, 2012 6:50 am

I’m inclined to vote yes on question one. I think dealers charge outrageous prices for simple repairs and I don’t believe the proprietary information argument.

Rachel Lewis Murphy
September 21, 2012 3:03 am

Question 1: A person should have the choice of where to take his or her vehicle for repairs. It is his or her property and money. Question 2: I see both sides of the argument. I believe that our bodies are a temple. But, I would not want my life prolonged in pain or be unable to take care of myself physically, mentally, financially and legally, That is my right and privilege. This life was given to me to freely do as I will. Question 3: The use of marijuana for certain diseases. With those particular diseases, the people will not get better. They will not live productive lives. It will give them more comfort than medications. I do not see the concern about addiction. They are slowly, very slowly dying. It is agonizing and frightening for them. Their loved ones have to helplessly and hopelessly watch them slowly die. Why would anyone want to be so sadistic as to deny them comfort?