Published On: Thu, Aug 4th, 2016

Boston City Councilors Michelle Wu and Tito Jackson, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, Rep. Dave Rogers and others announce support for Question 4

BOSTON—Boston City Council President Michelle Wu, Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, ACLU Massachusetts Executive Director Carol Rose, state Rep. David Rogers and several other prominent Massachusetts residents announced their support for Question 4 at a State House press conference today.

Other endorsers included Stephen Mandile, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and founder of Veterans Alternative Healing; Dr. Jordan Tishler, a Harvard-trained emergency room physician and expert in medical cannabis care; Stephen Hatch, a registered nurse in a dual-diagnosis substance use detox unit; and Regina Hufnagel, a former U.S. Army police officer and former federal corrections officer.

Easier access to marijuana for patients and caregivers, the historic social injustices wrought by the war on drugs, and potential of easing the state’s opioid epidemic, and the advantages of new revenues were among the reasons the group cited for their support.

“It just seems ridiculous that kids at Harvard can smoke pot and have incredibly successful careers while blacks and Latinos, particularly men and boys, who are using the same substance are sent to jail,” said Wu, a Harvard grad.

Councilor Tito Jackson said that revenues created under the regulated and taxed system proposed by Question 4 could be put to use for opioid treatment beds, which are in short supply in Massachusetts. “If anyone is serious about dealing with the opioid issues in the state of Massachusetts, then they’re on our side. If they’re serious about helping people who have addiction, and sadly, are dying, then they’re on our side.”

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse said that the current policy has not curbed drug use and drives users into markets where more dangerous drugs are sold. “I want to thank my colleagues in government for being here and for their political courage as well, because we see a lot of our colleagues and other elected officials buying into the same old tired arguments around fear,” Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse said. “And we should not be creating public policy by trying to scare people and making them believe this is negative for themselves, for their families, and for their communities.”

State Rep. David Rogers said: “Sometimes when we make laws, we don’t always have perfect data or the empirical evidence to make good policy. We make judgment calls,” Rogers said Wednesday. “In the case of marijuana, though, we have decade after decade after decade after decade of data, and our current approach has failed abysmally, and it’s obvious. If the goal was to stop people from using marijuana, how has that worked out?”

Iraq war veteran Stephen Mandile talked about his years-long addiction to opioids which began under treatment for a severe war injury. Mandile weaned himself off of opioids by using medical marijuana. But the cost of medical marijuana is more than he can afford, he said.

“I got deadly drugs free from the government, but I can barely cover the monthly cost of medical marijuana with my disability payments,” Mandile said. “I’m backing Question 4 because it will help increase access to marijuana treatment for veterans and it will help reduce costs.”

Dr. Jordan Tishler and Registered Nurse Steve Hatch, who both have experience working with patients with substance addictions, said marijuana is not a gateway drug and that it could help many users reduce their opioid dependence.

“We are very excited to have such distinguished endorsers backing our effort to end social injustices inflicted by the war on drugs, and to bring the benefits of a regulated, taxed system to Massachusetts,” said Yes on 4 campaign manager Will Luzier. “These endorsers recognize that our initiative will help ease patient access to marijuana while helping people avoid opioids, address decades of social injustice, and generate much-needed revenue for the Commonwealth and its communities.”