Published: November 8, 2016
By Mark S. Kennard, Executive Director of Project COPE
Featured in Lynn Daily Item on November 2, 2016.
Voters have a critical decision this November on whether to legalize recreational marijuana in Massachusetts. Even those who advocate for the use of marijuana for medical purposes should carefully consider the full impact of legalizing the sale of marijuana for recreational use. While there may be benefits to legally regulating marijuana use, as a long term provider organization for prevention, intervention and treatment of substance use disorders, we hope voters will carefully examine both sides to this important decision.
In the past 20 years, starting with the passage of a compassionate use law in California, the legal marijuana business has surged in the United States. Medical marijuana is currently legal and available in half of all states while four others, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska along with Washington, D.C., have passed laws allowing for the legal sale of recreational marijuana to adults ages 21 and up. Based on data from a cannabis research firm, legal marijuana sales will gross an estimated $5.4 billion in 2015, and sales could grow 30 percent per year through 2020.
According to the “Report of the Special Senate Committee on Marijuana” issued in March, an estimated 885,000 of Massachusetts residents used marijuana in some form over the past year for a total of 85 metric tons. This includes an estimated 400,000 youth under 25. There is clearly a market for the consumption of marijuana in our state.
Supporters of legalization advocate the ability to control the quality of the product, regulate and limit sales to those individuals over 21, and to reap additional much-needed revenues through taxation. A national lobbying group, the “Marijuana Policy Project” wrote the Massachusetts petition. It stipulates the creation of a regulatory framework to oversee the cultivation, processing, licensing and dispensing of recreational marijuana. And while the ballot includes regulation to prevent marketing to children, limits on signage, and a ban on public consumption, there are several unresolved issues that the proposed law does not address.
I ask you to be thoughtful in your response to Ballot Question 4 on November 8 as we determine what will be in the best interests of our citizens and our community.