Massachusetts voters will consider an initiative to legalize the commercial sale of marijuana in November of 2016. After studying this issue and consulting with a variety of experts and clinical leaders committed to improving public health, we recognize that there are compelling clinical and public policy reasons for not expanding the use of marijuana within Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association is proud to be part of a large coalition of healthcare, business, and community leaders – joined by a bipartisan group of state and local leaders – all aligned with the Campaign for a Safe & Healthy Massachusetts to oppose Question 4.
Click here to view the campaign’s new television ad, which makes a very strong case against the insertion of commercial marijuana into our communities.
The legalization of commercial marijuana poses a direct threat to the public health and safety of our patients and communities and raises significant concerns for healthcare organizations. In addition, the news coming out of the few states that that have legalized the commercial sale of marijuana – such as Colorado and Washington State – is troubling. The stakes are too high for Massachusetts and the reasons for opposition are clear.
Here's why MHA and its members are against Question 4:
- Edibles. The commercial marijuana industry model relies heavily on the sale of “edibles” – THC-laced products that look like, and are packaged as, lollipops, gummy bears, and other sweets targeted at the youth market. My peers in Colorado, where marijuana is legal, say edibles account for nearly 50% of all marijuana products sold in that state and emergency rooms are routinely treating children accidently ingesting these irresponsible products, whose unregulated THC levels can reach an astounding 95%.
- Impaired driving. Each day we see drivers crossing marked lines as they read texts or surf the web. Add impaired drivers using legal marijuana to that mix and you have a recipe for disaster. The number of traffic deaths due to marijuana-impaired drivers doubled the year after Washington State legalized marijuana, and Colorado has also seen a spike in impaired driving deaths. There's no breathalyzer test for marijuana, making it difficult to deter or prosecute these impaired drivers.
- Home grown allowances. Question 4 would allow anyone over 21 to grow marijuana in their homes even over the objections of neighbors. The tax revenue-enhancing arguments of pro marijuana supporters is undercut by the fact that allowing a homegrown marijuana industry will create a new black market for the product as it has already done in Colorado.
- Increased teen use. Since becoming the first state to legalize, Colorado has also become the number one state in the nation for teen marijuana use, making an increase in Massachusetts a similar certainty. According to studies by the National Academy of Sciences and other organizations, marijuana use by adolescents can impair brain development, impact long-term career growth, and even lower IQ.
- Impact on our communities. Question 4 limits the ability of communities to set limits on the number of marijuana producers and sellers that could open in Massachusetts. In the wake of its legalization vote, Colorado, now has more marijuanashops than the number of McDonald's and Starbucks combined. There are serious potential family and social consequences statewide, with disadvantaged communities in particular facing adversely effects.
- Adverse mental health impacts. Creating a legal commercial marijuana industry in Massachusetts would increase use among children and harm the cognitive development of young people. The Massachusetts chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) warns that marijuana use poses a increased danger for those with mental illness and young people predisposed to mental illness.
For healthcare providers and state regulators, there are also serious conflicts with federal law. Massachusetts has already decriminalized possession of recreational amounts of marijuana, and legalized its use for medical purposes. Question 4 is not a small step forward; it is a giant leap too far – especially for the well-being of our children. The legalization of the commercial marijuana industry will foster a dangerous climate that will yield poor public health consequences and challenges to the resources of our healthcare system. Our state's acceptance of a misguided ballot question will weaken Massachusetts collectively – not strengthen us.
Massachusetts hospitals have always been at the forefront of promoting public health, and the prospective legalized commercial sale of marijuana in our commonwealth poses a number of significant healthcare-related problems. MHA, its member hospitals, healthcare systems, other healthcare providers and healthcare community leaders from around the state have a clear message –Vote NO on Question 4.