Massachusetts voters will weigh in on marijuana legalization this November. Both sides of the ballot question are campaigning to determine the future of pot in the Bay State. Opponents claim legalizing marijuana will complicate the state’s existing opioid problem and put young people at risk. Proponents claim legalizing pot will help with the nation’s mass incarceration problem and allow law enforcement to focus better on opioid addiction.

Travel writer Rick Steves joined Jim and Margery to talk about the marijuana legalization ballot question. He clarified that his stance represents the support of American rights, rather than a wish for widespread pot-smoking.

“There’s really no good reason to continue to criminalize marijuana,” said Steves. ‘I want to make it really clear. I’m not pro-pot, I’m anti-prohibition and I’m pro-civil liberties.”

Steves also talked about the role that marijuana plays in the criminal justice system. He noted that people being busted for possession are usually those already facing discrimination. Steves said that legalizing and regulating marijuana in the state would make more equal a law that unfairly targets minorities.

“This is a racist law,” he said. “This is the new Jim Crow, and it is poor people and black people who are getting arrested.”

He also made a point of addressing popular concerns by the opposition, who say that marijuana is a gateway drug to more dangerous ones like heroin. Steves said those concerns are unfounded, because legalization would give lawmakers more resources to pursue the opioid epidemic with better focus.

“The only thing ‘gateway’ about marijuana is the fact that if it’s illegal, you’ve got to buy it from a criminal on the street who’s got a vested interest in selling you something more profitable and more addictive,” said Steves. “We can stop this prohibition, and then we can focus on the very real and serious problem of opioids”

To hear more of Rick Steves' interview with BPR, click on the audio link above.