Here is a letter 3 of us composed for our community. It was suggested we share it with people outside our community
Mark Friedman M.D.
As two pediatricians and a public health official with long commitments over many years to the health of children we encourage a no vote on ballot question 4. This 9124 word document puts control and authority of this potentially new industry in the hands of the MA. Department of the Treasury and eliminates any input from the MA Department of Public Health. Marijuana has already been decriminalized for those caring less than 1 ounce of the drug.
- Marijuana has documented negative effects on the neurologic and cognitive function of users.
- The adolescent and young adult brain is still in the process of development for mature decision making and cognitive skills.
- Marijuana is a substance that influences motor skills and judgment and has the potential to interfere with driving ability.
- The effect of legalization of marijuana of use by this at risk population is not known due to the brief time that marijuana has been legalized in only a few states.
- Youth perceive it is safe if the government sanctions its use.
The following are the problems with the ballot question and should be addressed in the legislation before it is put to a vote.
- The proposed legislation states that the Massachusetts excise tax will be 3.75% on top of the sales tax.Towns can add another 2% to the excise tax if it is passed by a vote. In other states the excise tax is much higher. In Washington the tax is 37%, Colorado 29%, Alaska 25% and in Oregon it is 25%. The Ma. excise tax on alcohol is 21%.
- The money raised from the excise tax will be used to cover the cost of oversight and there is no money being put aside to collect statistics about the effects of drug use, keeping track of the effect of the drug on automotive accidents and study the general effects of the drug on the younger members of our population.The tax should be used to fund public education if and when health concerns are found after further study
- There are no restrictions as to where marijuana stores can be located.The only way a town can restrict their location is by having a town referendum.
- There are guidelines for safe and childproof packaging of foods which contain marijuana but there are no restrictions or guidelines as to what the packaging can look like.Therefore foods can be packaged with pictures of candies, or other enticing foods that younger children like to eat.
Subjecting our children to a market driven experiment does not make sense. It would be wiser to study the effects of legalization in the states that have already started this experiment. We suggest doing studies in those states, and then writing a better and more protective piece of legislation before putting it to a vote in our state. If this ballot question does not pass, there will be no effect on medical marijuana dispensaries already in existence.
Thank you for taking the time to reading this. We hope that this information will help you decide to vote NO on ballot question 4.
Stuart Kleeman MD and Mark Friedman MD, Fellows of the American Academy of Pediatrics
Greg Connolly DMD and MPH, former director of the MA Dept. of Public Health Tobacco Control Program
Thanks for weighing in.
I feel that there is a natural tendency for people in medicine and law enforcement to come out against legalization because of their clinical experience. This experience exposes them to the worst outcomes, but the reality is that the vast majority of users don’t have bad outcomes and don’t seek help because they don’t need it.
What we don’t know is how much brain damage occurs for teens and once a government agency says its OK to use, teens are more willing to use it. Also the excise tax is too low because a higher tax will decrease teen use since they are more price sensitive. This was learned when I was working on a sugar sweeten beverage tax. Most people would say let Colorado be the test and study the effect for the next few years and then decide what to do.
So do many other legal substances.
1) The adolescent brain is irrelevant, since the ballot initiative does not make recreational marijuana use legal for adolescents.
2) This could apply equally well to many other legal substances.
So do many other legal substances.
Recreational marijuana has been legal in Colorado for two years. That is more than enough time to observe any uptick in negative outcomes; as far as I know, there have been none. If you have data to the contrary, feel free to provide citations.
1) This is an entirely anecdotal statement, which frankly I highly doubt is true to any large extent. If you have data to back it up, feel free to provide citations.
2) This statement applies to many other legal substances and activities that are not legal for children. It is not a compelling argument. It is the job of parents, not the state, to prevent their children from doing things that are bad for them and illegal. It is not appropriate for the state to make something illegal for adults just because it might be harmful to children.
3) “Think of the children!” is, frankly, a despicable argument and is almost always a sign that the people making it are up to no good.
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