Even though Massachusetts will mostly likely vote Democrat in the upcoming presidential election, there are three statewide ballot questions that could change current laws and affect MIT students.
If enacted, Question 1 would require car manufacturers to provide independent car repair shops and owners with the same vehicle diagnostic and repair information currently available to dealerships. The information must be included for new cars sold from 2015 onward. For older vehicles, manufacturers would be allowed to sell the repair and diagnostic information. Supporters of the law argue that car owners have the right to know how to fix their own vehicles, adding that the law would lower prices by increasing competition among dealerships and independent repair shops. However, the opposition argues that independent repair shops already have access to similar information. They believe that this law would ultimately threaten consumer safety and cause prices of cars to rise.
In a departure from the typical ballot fare, Question 2, if enacted, could legally give citizens the right to assisted suicide. Terminally ill patients with less than six months to live would be able to request physicians to prescribe lethal medicine that would provide a “dignified death.” Physicians carry a significant responsibility; they must fully inform the patient of his or her actions and arrange for courier services once the patient passes away. In order to provide dignity, the death certificate would be issued with the underlying disease as the cause of death. Proponents argue that this enacting this law would reduce the suffering of terminally ill patients, who would otherwise die in discomfort. However, detractors fear that suicide will become a substitute for healthcare.
Also concerning the medically ill, Question 3 would further liberalize medical marijuana use after its decriminalization in 2008, which allowed people to carry one ounce of cannabis. If the law is enacted, criminal and civil penalties of possessing medical marijuana would be eliminated. Patients with serious conditions such as HIV, Hepatitis C, and Parkinson’s Disease would be allowed to have a 60-day supply of marijuana for medical use. Marijuana would also be sold at state-regulated centers and in certain cases, patients would be allowed to grow marijuana in their homes. Supporters cite the relief medical marijuana provides for patients, while naysayers believe the vague language of “medical condition” will allow anyone to have access.
In addition, the City of Cambridge poses several non-binding questions on the ballot that influence the local congressmen. These questions are merely suggestions; Congressmen don’t have to adhere to the results when they vote. The first question asks if the state senator should vote that marijuana be taxed and regulated like alcohol. The second question asks if the state representative should vote that companies are NOT entitled to the rights of individuals. Finally, the third question asks if the state representative should vote in favor of a resolution calling upon the president to prevent cuts to various social programs, raise taxes for middle class Americans, and close tax loopholes for large corporations. This last question has no official bearing on what will happen; it is merely a resolution “urging” the president, and not a bill.
The text of these questions can be found in the sidebar, and more information can be found online at http://www.mass.gov/ago/government-resources/initiatives-and-other-ballot-questions/ballot-questions.html.