If recent news reports are to be believed, some in our state are hyperventilating about the imminent legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts which was approved by voters in the recent election.
Their opposition primarily is two-fold: First, that more under-age youth (under 21) will begin to use marijuana, and second, that there will be an increase in the incidence of motor vehicle operators who will drive while under the influence of marijuana.
We think these concerns are unfounded for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, possession of marijuana has been decriminalized in our state for the past eight years. Possession of an amount of marijuana of less than an ounce subjects the possessor to nothing more than a civil infraction of up to a $100 citation (which, by the way, can be totally ignored by a person receiving the citation because there are no consequences for non-payment of the fine).
Yet there is no evidence to suggest that marijuana usage by youth or by motor vehicle operators has increased in Massachusetts since decriminalization.
Second, the results of a study released last year by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that in states where marijuana has become completely legal and sold over the counter, there has been no appreciable increase of use by youth.
In addition, there has been no evidence from any reputable study that arrests for operating under the influence of marijuana has increased in these states.
Finally, although we have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana in our state, the business of selling marijuana in Massachusetts still is operated by the black market drug dealers, who pay no taxes and who ply their trade along with the bad drugs that they also try to get our children to use. Legalization will put these people out of the business of marijuana and keep our children from being exposed both to them and to the other drugs that they push.
The majority of Massachusetts voters decided to accept the reality of marijuana in our society — and we urge our lawmakers and public safety officials to move forward as soon as possible in the direction of the will of the people.