The casino argument that dominated headlines for years has been resolved, and there will be casinos across the state, including MGM Springfield here in the city. There is no denying Massachusetts as one of the most liberal states. However, I will argue that the people of the Commonwealth have been exhibiting inconsistent decision making for quite some time in regards to recreations that have adverse health effects. Recent headlines suggest that this isn’t about to change.
In the fall, the town of Westminster Board of Health attempted to ban tobacco sales in their town in a proposal that was eventually dropped. Last week, here in Western Mass., the South Hadley Board of Health voted in favor of banning tobacco sales to anyone under 21.
I understand wanting to protect the youth of our communities. Just as much as any other citizen, I want today’s children to be tomorrow’s leaders, but these kinds of precedents don’t make a whole lot of sense in our state.
In November, the Affordable Casino Repeal Initiative was met with an overwhelming 60-percent “no” vote. The majority vote suggests that in this state we are comfortable with taking an approach of prevention and regulation over one of limitation for recreations that can be deemed bad habits.
Marijuana has been decriminalized in Massachusetts since 2008. We became the eighteenth state to allow medical marijuana legalization in 2012. On Feb. 2, MassLive published an article highlighting Northampton lawyer Richard M. Evans’ suggestion that Massachusetts could have a ballot initiative in 2016 in regards to law reform for recreational use.
I agree with those in our state who want our communities to remain virtuous and esteemed. It is time for a reality check, however if we are at the point where privileged communities want to put individual restrictions on trivial matters like tobacco sales.
Regardless of any notion to protect our youth or keep our communities clean, it seems there are some lines being crossed into shrewd territory. In a predominantly liberal state, prevention and treatment are the logical approach to any of the sins that cause heated debate. Whether tobacco, marijuana, or gambling are the issue at hand, it is best to maintain the integrity of our state while allowing the people to have what they overpoweringly want.
If 60-percent of voters approved of casinos this past fall, and 63-percent approved of medical marijuana legislation in 2012, what does that say? It says Massachusetts is a population in position to grant people privileges and regulate them properly.
This argument stands without my personal opinion infused into it too much. At the time of the casino vote, I voiced in this column that I was fairly anti-casino. The reality is such: gambling will become part of the Massachusetts culture, and likely won’t be much of an issue. Whether in 2016 or not remains to be seen, but marijuana will have the same eventual fate.
We are talking about a state that is willing to grant its people freedoms and handle them accordingly. While it is a human rights issue and not an issue of recreation, Massachusetts was after all the first state to allow same-sex marriage in 2004.
The point is our suburban societies are playing an old-fashioned game of flip-flop. Assuredly many of the voters in a town like South Hadley or Westminster were pro-casino and pro-medical marijuana. Should we really be concerned about placing more restrictions on tobacco sales? Anyone that has never even bought a tobacco product would probably attest that it isn’t.
At this point, it goes beyond tobacco restrictions being ridiculous. The majority of people in Massachusetts want the privileges of buying tobacco, buying alcohol, buying marijuana, and gambling. As it currently stands, the people have had the first two privileges for a long time. Why now, as the state moves towards granting other privileges, set limitations on the first? People are aware of the dangers of all of these things, it’s the 21st century.
If the people feel that strongly about these privileges, let them be. Properly educate our youth, prevent them from partaking in any of these activities, and regulate everything as firmly as need be.
Banning tobacco sales or putting an age restriction on them? It seems to me like a foolish waste of time when there are more important issues. Massachusetts is in a declared opioid addiction epidemic, and we are worrying about an 18-year-old stopping at his or her local gas station to buy a pack of cigarettes. More people die in our state of opioid overdoses in Massachusetts than car crashes, per a state-conducted study in 2012.
My opinion probably isn’t the popular one, but let the people have what they want within reason, and leverage it for tax revenue that can improve other areas of concern in our state, such as education and solving an ongoing, rampant hard drug problem.
We spend endless amounts of time bantering over the privileges voters in Massachusetts want or already have when that ample time should be spent addressing more significant issues.