With a presidential election coming up that has left the nation divided, two issues that University of Massachusetts Amherst students could agree upon were the prohibition of certain methods of farm animal containment and the legalization of recreational marijuana for people 21 years old and above.
“That one is a no brainer,” said Avigail Deking, a junior social thought and political economy major, on Question 4. “They should (legalize marijuana) and I don’t know why it’s taking so long. Marijuana is the most important question because it has many benefits. It’s unnatural to illegalize plants. It doesn’t make sense. It’s just nature,”
Deking’s friend agreed.
“I think it could benefit everyone because if it’s legal then they could tax it and we could use that tax money more effectively. Other states have legalized marijuana already and we don’t see any (major) repercussions of it,” said Nam Le, a senior majoring in Biochemistry.
Recreational use of marijuana is legal in Washington D.C., Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Come November, Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada voters will be deciding on recreational marijuana ballot initiatives.
Sophia Scanlan, a junior psychology major, emphasized the importance of regulation, age-appropriateness and not glorifying marijuana through legalization. “The age is important because there can be problems with smoking early, such as developmental issues. However, I don’t see marijuana as a harmful substance, especially when starting at the age of 21,” said Scanlan.
For Scanlan, the positives of marijuana legalization outweigh the negatives. She spoke about the responsibility of the authorities and sellers to ensure that marijuana is distributed safely.
“Advertisements should be specific towards older people and the selling, buying, producing, advertising of marijuana should be regulated carefully. Once those things are sought out and researched then (legalization) would be beneficial,” said Scanlan.
Connie Fredrickson, a junior history major who came to UMass from the United Kingdom for study abroad, gave a similar answer. Although she has not had a lot of personal experience with marijuana, she acknowledged a double standard.
“In some ways, alcohol is a lot worse for you (than marijuana) and I don’t understand why it’s not legal, not here or in the UK,” said Fredrickson.
Fredrickson thought Question 3, which would prohibit certain methods of farm animal confinement which prevent basic motions, is the most important question because it is ethical, as did Avigail Deking and Nam Le.
“They’re living things so we should treat them with respect because we are killing them anyways so might as well make their conditions more livable and comfortable,” said Le.
Deking echoed a similar sentiment. She said, without hesitation, “Farm animals deserve to be treated better.”
However, the first two ballot questions elicited more unclear responses from students. Question 1 would allow the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to issue an additional slots license and Question 2 would authorize the expansion of up to 12 charter schools.
Fredrickson was unsure about Question 1.
“This a really tough one. I am guessing it completely depends on the regulation of the casinos and if it is economically beneficial for the area,” said Fredrickson.
Deking was also torn between the options.
“I don’t know how to feel about it because I didn’t have a personal experience with casinos, but I feel like it would increase businesses and more people would come into town. But, it also depends on the location,” she said.
Le and Scanlan are against additional slot licenses because they believe that there are better projects that funds should be allocated towards.
“There shouldn’t be more casinos because construction takes up a lot of money and we should use that money to do something more productive,” said Le.
Scanlan shared the same ideology saying “there are so many other things that are a lot more important than casinos so it’s silly to allocate resources towards that.”
With her father working in a public school and her mother in charter school, Scanlan seemed to still be on the fence about Question 2. “I kind of see both sides of it. There is no definite yes or no,” Scanlan said.
Le had a more definite answer.
“No more charter schools, money should be spent better on public schools. I think the quality of education should be more focused as charter schools are for top students and quality of education should be more focused on all students,” said Le.
Fredrickson agreed from a global perspective.
“If you take all the top kids from each public school, public schools are going to struggle academically,” she said. “It also does breed this elitist kind of, ‘we are better than you,’ perspective, unfortunately that’s what happens, even in the UK. Those kids get to go into the best universities,” she adds.
Nujhat Purnata can be reached at [email protected]