BOSTON (AP) — State voters legalized medical marijuana on Tuesday and approved a law that will require new cars to have diagnostic systems that are accessible to all mechanics, not just the dealerships that sold them.
A ballot question that would legalize physician-assisted suicide for people with terminal illnesses was too close to call late Tuesday. Opponents were slightly ahead with about half the votes counted.
People dealing with debilitating illnesses also took a keen interest in the medical marijuana law, which will allow people with debilitating medical conditions to get the drug legally.
The law eliminates state criminal and civil penalties for the medical use of marijuana by people with cancer, hepatitis C, Parkinson's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, AIDS or other conditions determined by a patient's doctor.
"It's a good thing. It's long overdue," said Nancy Nangeroni, a Web designer from Beverly who suffered a spine injury in a 2004 car accident and says there are days when marijuana is the only thing that allows her to work through her chronic pain. "This is going to make a lot of people's lives a lot easier."
Opponents said the law is ripe for abuse and fraud and could lead to a proliferation of marijuana dispensaries, or pot shops, which are difficult to regulate. And they said they saw the ballot question as the next step toward full legalization of marijuana.
In 2008, Massachusetts decriminalized possession of marijuana in amounts under 1 ounce.
The law will require patients to get written certifications from their doctors that they have specific medical conditions and would be likely to possess up to a 60-day supply of marijuana for their personal medical use.
It will allow for nonprofit medical marijuana treatment centers regulated by the state Department of Public Health to grow and provide marijuana to patients or their caregivers.