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Three questions

Massachusetts voters will be deciding on three ballot questions this election.

This initiatives address car repairs, physician-assisted suicide and medical marijuana. Three very different questions, but along with asking Massachusetts residents to weigh in, they share the common characteristic of being flawed in some way.

This is why when it comes to sound governance, ballot initiatives are not the way to go.

Sometimes the problem with this approach is what is or isn’t included in the language of the question.

Sometime’s it’s more a matter of who is behind the effort to bring a particular question before the voters or that the issue isn’t one that belongs on a statewide ballot to begin with.

We are willing to see these questions, however, as a way for the Legislature to hear from voters. If these questions pass, then it should be seen as a beginning — a place for lawmakers to start the effort to create a better law.

That said, here’s our view of this election’s ballot initiatives:

Question 1: The “right to repair initiative.”

“A YES VOTE,” according to the Secretary of State’s Office, “would enact the proposed law requiring motor vehicle manufacturers to allow vehicle owners and independent repair facilities in Massachusetts to have access to the same vehicle diagnostic and repair information made available to the manufacturers’ Massachusetts dealers and authorized repair facilities.

“A NO VOTE would make no change in existing laws.”

We urge a “NO” vote on Question 1. This August, a compromise measure was reached involving the different parties, thus making the question moot. However, some proponents of the bill have now decided to reject the compromise and are advocating a “yes” vote. Others are saying voters should ignore the question. But if this passes, it sets up a legal conflict, one we can see being a headache for all involved. The compromise reached by the Legislature seems to be a fair way to go.

Vote “no” on Question 1.

Question 2: physician-assisted suicide. As explained by the Secretary of State’s office, “A YES VOTE would enact the proposed law allowing a physician licensed in Massachusetts to prescribe medication, at the request of a terminally-ill patient meeting certain conditions, to end that person’s life.

“A NO VOTE would make no change in existing laws.”

This is one of those initiatives that should not be a ballot question to begin with. The subject of doctor-assisted suicide is a personal matter, one shaped by a number of moral and ethical questions and one where the individual must follow the dictates of their own conscience. Maybe that’s why there are only three states that have enacted physician-assisted suicide. The Recorder has decided to offer no endorsement on Question 2, leaving it to individuals to decide, according to the dictates of their conscience.

Question 3: the medical marijuana question.

The Secretary of State tells voters that, “A YES VOTE would enact the proposed law eliminating state criminal and civil penalties related to the medical use of marijuana, allowing patients meeting certain conditions to obtain marijuana produced and distributed by new state-regulated centers or, in specific hardship cases, to grow marijuana for their own use.

“A NO VOTE would make no change in existing laws.”

As written, this initiative has a few loopholes, ones we see paving the way for legalization of the drug in Massachusetts. In particular, the aspects of the law that allow for individuals in certain situations to grow their own looks to us as such an avenue, one we suspect was deliberately placed their by those striving to open the doors to legalized pot. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who argue, with considerable justification, that there is a legitimate medical use for the plant for certain patients.

And the question contains a number of good safeguards against the sort of problems seen by other states.

Therefore, we ask voters to say “yes” to the bill, but urge lawmakers to move quickly to amend the law to close that loophole, as well as others that may crop up.

That’s our thinking. Now it’s up to the voters to decide these three issues on Tuesday.

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