For the first time since 1911, starting today, marijuana is legal for everyone in Massachusetts! Well, everyone over 21, that is. Question 4, like every successful marijuana legalization initiative in the country, set the purchase and possession age to 21, with the idea of treating marijuana similarly to alcohol.
While I think adults should be able to make their own decisions and would prefer both ages to be set at 18, I at least appreciate the consistency of giving marijuana the same age requirement since the alcohol age isn’t changing any time soon. But on Boston Herald Radio, Senate President Stan Rosenberg surprisingly floated the idea of raising the marijuana age to 25. Beyond violating the clear will of voters, this would just be bad policy.
Not every voter knows every detail of every ballot question. They’re complicated, and people are busy. But an age requirement of 21 was one of the major themes of the Yes on 4 campaign: WBUR, Suffolk University, and Western New England University all mentioned the age requirement in their polling questions. It was in the first sentence in the official voter guide. The group pushing for it was even called the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is pretty much saying it should be reserved for those 21 and older. The 54% of voters who approved of Question 4 definitely knew that it was about legalizing marijuana for people 21 and up.
Even if violating the will of voters didn’t matter (and it does), raising the marijuana age requirement to 25 would just be bad policy. The most common argument made in favor is that your brain doesn’t finish developing until you’re about 25, but the practical effect would be to push 21-25-year-old marijuana consumers to buy it on the black market – and that potentially moldy, pesticide-ridden pot isn’t doing their brains any favors. In addition to pushing them into the black market, it would also steer them towards drinking instead, and alcohol isn’t good for developing brains either (and is probably far worse).
Marijuana is safer than alcohol, and the people of Massachusetts realize that.The voters made it abundantly clear that they want marijuana treated like alcohol, so any changes proposed in the legislature should be viewed through that lens. And through that lens, Rosenberg’s proposal should be rejected.