North County approved ballot questions allowing residents rights to medical marijuana and physician assisted suicide on Tuesday’s ballot, joining voters statewide in legalizing medical marijuana and approving a law that will require new cars to have diagnostic systems that are accessible to all mechanics, not just the dealerships that sold them.
The ballot question that would legalize physician-assisted suicide for people with terminal illnesses was too close to call across the state Tuesday. Opponents were slightly ahead with about half the votes counted.
Question 2 that would allow physician assisted suicide saw support from 9,304 Northern Berkshire voters, while 6,974 were opposed; and Question 3 to allow medical marijuana gained the votes of 10,729, with 4,913 in opposition. Savoy’s voting results were not available as of press time.
For or against, voters who spoke to the Transcript on Tuesday were thoughtful in their responses to the questions. Most had read into the respective laws’ proposed guidelines, with many reflecting a gratitude at being provided this information by the state.
For Question 2, Adriana Brown, of Williamstown, explained that her native country, the Netherlands, also deliberated before allowing physician assisted suicide, but that she felt it was the right thing.
"I feel very strongly that this should be an individual’s decision," Brown said.
In Adams, voters David Marko and Emma Demastrie fell on opposite sides of Question 2. Marko said opponents had argued that loopholes made the law dangerous, but said after reading into the proposal he found this to be untrue.
"It didn’t seem to me that there were any loopholes," Marko said. "... There’s many blockades and official chances to renege."
Arguing from the other side, Demastrie said, "I couldn’t help but think of people’s families ... [Under the law] people wouldn’t have to tell them about the decision."
The "Death with Dignity" law would involve much interaction with medical personnel to determine whether an individual was qualified for such a measure. Doctors would also inform these individuals of alternatives, refer them to a psychiatrist and offer several opportunities to rescind.
Tuesday’s voters supported Question 3 for medicinal marijuana by an even wider margin.
North Adams resident John Moulton wove the two questions together in his analysis.
"I voted yes [on 3]. I think if someone is suffering, we should alleviate their pain. I don’t see a problem with using [marijuana] to do it. Maybe if the people who support Question 2 were able to have Question 3, they wouldn’t need to support assisted suicide."
The ballot initiative was funded almost exclusively by Ohio billionaire Peter Lewis, who has also been active funding similar measures in other states. Approved statewide, the law takes effect Jan. 1, 2013, and allows no more than 35 treatment centers in the commonwealth, according to Voter’s Edge Massachusetts. In 2008, Massachusetts decriminalized possession of marijuana in amounts under one ounce.
Cannabis has been shown to be effective in mitigating pain for patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, multiple sclerosis and other sorts of nerve pain, according to proponents of the initiative.
Question 4, a non-binding ballot question that advocated the overturning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, also saw massive support from North County voters. A total of 11,222 voted in favor of the question while 2,857 opposed.
Said Brown, "I voted [in favor]. Corporations are not people. As one of my friends said, ‘Can a corporation get a colonoscopy?’ "
Question 1, the Right to Repair initiative, though announced a dead issue before Tuesday nonetheless received support from North County voters, 10,953 to 2,449. The question advocated making diagnostic and repair information on vehicles that is usually only available to dealers open to owners as well. Both sides of the debate reached a legislative compromise before Tuesday, and urged a no vote to avoid potential confusion if the measure passed.
Transcript Digital News Specialist Jennifer Huberdeau contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was also used.