MMS Testimony in Opposition to House 3932, The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act

Before the Joint Committee on Judiciary

The Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) wishes to be recorded in opposition to House 3932, legislation tied to the initiative petition to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The Medical Society reaffirmed in December its policy to oppose legalization of recreational marijuana, as being detrimental to public health. The Medical Society believes that the overall negative health consequences of marijuana use outweigh arguments supporting legalization, and has concern regarding the strain that legalization could place on the health care system. 

The Massachusetts Medical Society encourages the legislature, in considering the impact of the legalization of recreational marijuana, to acknowledge the potential negative public health consequences marijuana use. The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area 2015 Impact Report, released last September to report on the impact of marijuana legalization in Colorado, provides an evidence-based confirmation of many concerns of the Medical Society. Colorado reported a 32 percent increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths from 2013 to 2014, when marijuana retails businesses began operating. The report also indicated that Colorado saw a marked rise in youth marijuana use, a significant concern of the Medical Society, with Colorado ranking 56 percent higher than the national average in youth marijuana use. There was a 29 percent increase in the number of marijuana-related emergency room visits in 2014 in Colorado, and a 38 percent rise in marijuana related hospitalizations, which further enhances concerns about health system strain if this initiative petition is passed.

This Colorado data reporting increased recreational use is of particular concern given the body of evidence suggesting concern regarding the morphological and functional alterations to the developing brain of children and adolescents exposed to marijuana, including a 2012 study showing impaired neural connectivity in brains of adolescents with marijuana exposure. There are also studies showing associations between marijuana use and anxiety and depression, additional drug use, long-term school performance, and lung cancer.   

While Massachusetts Medical Society continues to fundamentally oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana, we provide comment on the following details of House 3932. It is imperative that laws and regulations are in place to prohibit the sale and ultimate possession of recreational marijuana to persons under the age of 21. Of particular concern is accidental access to marijuana infused edibles and vaporized products by children, who are at high risk for poisoning. 

Additionally, the Massachusetts Medical Society believes that tax revenues derived from this legislation should be dedicated exclusively, at adequate funding levels, for the prevention and treatment of public health consequences, such as substance abuse and addictions, which may be aggravated by the of recreational marijuana. House 3932 fails to provide adequate, properly dedicated funding. 

In conclusion, the Medical Society opposes the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, and opposes specifically the provisions regarding the tax funding levels and allocation. If passed, the Medical Society would support strong regulatory provisions to prevent marijuana use among person under the age of 21, and would support strong public campaigns to education the public about negative consequences of recreational use. 

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