Baker, Walsh join forces to stop pot legalization

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Governor Charlie Baker, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh have formed a bipartisan alliance to stop the effort to legalize marijuana in the Bay State.

In an column published today in the Boston Globe, the governor, a Republican, and Healey and Walsh, both Democrats, address public safety concerns of legalizing pot:

In the year after the drug was legalized in Colorado, marijuana-related emergency room visits increased nearly 30 percent, as did traffic deaths involving marijuana. Edible marijuana products — often in the form of brownies, candy, or soda — pose a particular threat for children, who may mistake them for regular treats. According to data from the National Poison Data System, marijuana exposure has been on the rise among children under six, particularly in states where the drug is legal. High potency edible products also pose a risk to adults, who can easily consume more marijuana than intended and experience serious adverse effects. These products are rarely labeled properly to reflect their psychoactive THC content, which is particularly concerning given that edible marijuana products constitute almost half of the legal marijuana market in Colorado.

All six New England states are currently considering proposals to legalize pot. Massachusetts legalized medical marijuana by ballot initiative in 2013. A new initiative, headed for the November 2016 ballot, asks voters to allow those over the age of 21 to grow marijuana plants and to carry one ounce of the drug outside of their homes.

The state’s senior senator, Democrat Elizabeth Warren, a strong supporter of medical marijuana, said last year that she is open to legalizing marijuana for recreational use. In a Feb. 8 letter to the Centers for Disease Control, Warren asked the Center to explore the use of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioid painkillers. But public health advocates, pointing to studies that show marijuana use may actually prime the brain for opiate addiction, have warned that legalizing marijuana may exacerbate the current opioid epidemic.

In their Globe piece, Baker, Walsh and Healey argue that:

Where marijuana is legal, young people are more likely to use it, according to a January report from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The report found that while use among minors has declined nationwide in recent years, states like Colorado have seen an increase. There, young people are 20 percent more likely to have used marijuana regularly since it became legal for adults two years ago. And they’re 40 percent more likely to be regular users than their peers in Massachusetts. Kids in states that have legalized marijuana have easier access to the drug. And many believe that, since the drug is legal for adults, it must be safe to use.

The proposed ballot initiative is currently under consideration by the state legislature.