Last week was a good one for local medical marijuana patients, as Patriot Care was granted a permit to open a medical cannabis dispensary on Milk Street in Boston after a third and final Zoning Board of Appeal hearing. The news came after an unnecessary battle with the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, and on the heels of Mayor Marty Walsh doing what many marijuana advocates never believed would happen: he actually listened to constituents, then helped to break the logjam. “The concessions came a long way from where it started,” Walsh said about Patriot Care’s appeasement of their opposition.
In other news, however, it wasn’t long before authorities and pols in the Bay State got back to bashing marijuana reform, not coincidentally around the time that two groups—the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, and Bay State Repeal—officially submitted language for their separate pot legalization ballot initiatives. For starters, there’s notoriously intolerant state Rep. Colleen Garry, who brought heroin into the conversation. “We all see what opioids do,” the Dracut legislator told reporters. “I don’t think we should be adding fuel to the already raging drug issues in Massachusetts.”
This is all to be expected. But what’s important to acknowledge is how Garry ignores everything that science tells us about cannabis in relation to opiate use. A 2014 JAMA study, for example, titled “Lower Opioid Overdose Death Rates Associated with State Medical Marijuana Laws,” found that in states that implemented medical programs between 1999 and 2010, 25 percent less people died from opiate overdoses than in intolerant states like Mass at the time.
Then there’s Boston Police Department Commissioner William Evans, who claims, “A lot of home invasions always seem to revolve around someone selling marijuana. Young college kids trying to supplement their income. We get a half-dozen every year where they invite regular city kids over and next thing you know, their door is getting broken down and they are getting robbed.” There’s enough that’s wrong with that ridiculous comment to warrant an entire column of criticism, but at the very least, Evans doesn’t seem to understand that legalization would dramatically damage the black market, as has already proven to be true in Colorado.
As a kicker, Evans added, “We have such an opiate problem out there now, I don’t think it’s the right time to get into making another drug so readily available … There is no doubt in my mind it’s a gateway drug.” What can we say? The guy’s no healthcare professional, nor does he seem interested in reading any research on the matter.
And what was that we heard from Mass Attorney General Maura Healey? Oh yeah, she said that a conversation with her Colorado counterpart convinced her that, while there have been “some revenues and that was part of the motivation behind this,” “at the end of the day they’re seeing some real problems, particularly with the illegal drug and gun trafficking, because oftentimes guns go along with the drug trafficking there.” Healey must think that she can just say any old bullshit without getting called on it. In reality, violent crime has dropped in Denver since legalization. So has property crime for that matter.
Finally, there’s Governor Charlie Baker, who is blaming his stubborn position on the absurd notions of others. He recently told an interviewer, “I’m in the same place Mayor [Marty] Walsh and the attorney general are on marijuana, which is I don’t support legalizing it … Virtually everyone I know in the addiction community says this is a bad idea. Most of the people I know in the healthcare world say it’s a bad idea. For those who say the reason we should support this is because it’s an easy way to raise money, you know, I think that’s like the worst answer of all. For me, this is a question of public health.”
To think that these are the people who are fighting for us on the front lines in the battle against the over-prescribing of opiates. And they wonder why the deaths continue.