, Salem, MA

November 6, 2012

Massachusetts voters decide three ballot questions

By Alan Burke Staff writer
The Salem News

---- — Despite a new law offering a compromise on the issue, the Right to Repair law passed by a substantial margin in yesterday’s election. Even so, the controversy may not have ended.

The measure is designed to allow consumers to take their vehicles to local repair shops rather than the car dealers who sold them.

How the North Shore Voted: Question 1

Right now, all the high-tech codes and computerization can potentially give dealers a monopoly on repairing the cars they produce. The new measure was designed to compel them to reveal the information needed for anybody to fix their cars. It also would allow independent manufacturers to produce aftermarket or generic parts.

Now here’s the rub. Last summer, car companies and advocates of Right to Repair conferred with the Legislature and Danvers state Rep. Ted Speliotis’ Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, and reached a compromise, which was promptly signed by the governor.

The compromise gives the car companies a little more time to prepare for turning over their information and gives their trade secrets a little more protection.

For better or worse, the compromise legislation was signed too late to take Question 1 off the ballot. Then advocates of Question 1 announced they weren’t on board with the compromise and urged voters to back Right to Repair.

They did exactly that, but it might not matter, as Speliotis previously indicated that the Legislature would “probably” allow its compromise to stand in place of the ballot measure.

How the North Shore Voted: Question 3

Question 3, legalizing the use of marijuana for medical reasons, such as relief of pain or nausea, passed, as well. Supporters advocated the law as a matter of providing good medicine to the sick. Some patients say marijuana can be effective where other drugs are inadequate, in patients with everything from AIDS to glaucoma. Patients would need a doctor’s prescription to obtain marijuana legally, and a limited number of shops (35) would be allowed across the state.

Other states have made marijuana available for medical use, and the promoters of this law, including the Committee for Compassionate Medicine, say they learned from the mistakes made elsewhere.

Critics, however, said that while marijuana can be allowed by the state, it remains illegal under federal law. Law enforcement people, including Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, pointed out that major medical organizations have found scant proof that the drug is of any medical use. And some worry that legalizing medical use of marijuana would opens the door to the use of stronger drugs.

As of last night, the support for Question 2, allowing “assisted suicide,” was narrowly outpacing opposition.

How the North Shore Voted: Question 2

Advocates, who include The American Public Health Association and The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, referred to the measure as “death with dignity.” It allows patients whose doctors give them no more than six months to live to obtain a prescription for enough pills to kill themselves.

Similar laws are already in effect in Washington state and Oregon. Supporters view it as an alternative to a lingering death, in which pain and suffering can sometimes rob a person of any meaningful existence.

Opponents, including the Roman Catholic Church and the Massachusetts Medical Association, condemned the proposal as poorly written, putting too much faith in the predictions of doctors, who can be wrong about how long someone has to live. An ad campaign stressed the fact that despite the title of the ballot question, a doctor is not required to be present when the medication is taken.

Others raised the possibility that people suffering from depression or emotional problems might not be able to make a rational choice. Consultation with a psychiatrist is required in only some cases.