Editor's Note: Massachusetts voters will be asked to vote for or against three ballot measures (questions) this election cycle. The Organizing Against Substances in Stoughton (OASIS) Coalition has announced its opposition to Question 3: Medical Use of Marijuana.
This proposed law would eliminate state criminal and civil penalties for the medical use of marijuana by qualifying patients.
The following is the OASIS position paper explaining its stance. A PDF version which includes footnote citations is posted in the media gallery of this article. Read more about question 3, including arguments for and against, by clicking here.
The OASIS coalition is opposed to Question 3.
As a community coalition working to prevent youth substance abuse, OASIS is committed to reducing youth marijuana use through strategies that decrease youth access to marijuana and increase perception of harm of the drug. Current research shows:
- There is a direct correlation between “medical” marijuana initiatives and decreases in perception of harm and social disapproval. States that have “medical” marijuana programs have among the lowest perceptions of harm among youth in the nation. The 2011 Monitoring the Future Survey reports that 22.7% of U.S. high school seniors thought that there was a great risk of harm from smoking marijuana occasionally, down from 26.6% in 2003. Efforts to pass “medical” marijuana initiatives further normalize marijuana use among youth and thereby lessen the perceptions of its dangers and negative effects, which will result in increases in youth marijuana use.
- States that have legalized marijuana as medicine are experiencing widespread use and abuse of marijuana. States with “medical” marijuana laws have marijuana abuse and dependence rates almost twice as high than states without such laws.
- Medical marijuana is being diverted to youth through increased supply and easy access. The 2008-2009 State Estimates of Drug Abuse show that four of the top five states, and 14 of the 18 states with the highest percentage of past month marijuana users ages 12-17 are states with “medical marijuana” programs. A 2012 study shows that among adolescents in substance abuse treatment in Denver, Colorado, 74% had used someone else’s medical marijuana a median of 50 times.
- Marijuana is addictive. The National Institutes of Health found that the earlier marijuana use is initiated, the higher the risk for drug abuse and dependence. Those who begin using the drug in their teens have approximately a one-in-six chance of developing marijuana dependence. In fact, children and teens are six times likelier to be in treatment for marijuana than for all other illegal drugs combined. Addiction rates among 12-17 year olds are among the highest levels nationally in states that have “medical marijuana” programs.
- Marijuana use negatively impacts adolescent brain development. A study by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the National Institute on Mental Health, found that adolescents and young adults who are heavy users of marijuana are more likely than non-users to have disrupted brain development. Researchers found abnormalities in areas of the brain that interconnect brain regions involved in memory, attention, decision-making, language and executive functioning skills. A new, 2012 study indicates an average eight-point drop in IQ among teens who use marijuana.
- Marijuana use negatively impacts academic achievement. Youth with an average grade of D or below were more than four times as likely to have used marijuana in the past year than youth with an average grade of A. The more a student uses drugs, such as marijuana, the lower their grade point average is likely to be and the more likely they are to drop out of school.
- States that have approved “medical marijuana” use have experienced costly highway safety issues. 20% of crashes in the U.S. are caused by drugged driving. Marijuana is the most prevalent illegal drug detected in impaired drivers, fatally injured drivers, and motor vehicle crash victims. The Colorado Department of Transportation found that after passing “medical marijuana” legislation in the state, drivers who tested positive for marijuana in fatal car crashes DOUBLED between 2006 and 2010. In 2010, six cities in California conducted nighttime weekend voluntary roadside surveys and found that the percentage of drivers who tested positive for marijuana (8.4%) was greater than the percentage that were using alcohol (7.6%).
Marijuana has not been approved as medicine by the United States Food and Drug Administration and remains scheduled as a federally illegal drug. Medicines are determined through rigorous study, research and clinical trial, not through popular vote. Also, medicines are dispensed through the highly regulated pharmaceutical system. Circumventing the existing processes and infrastructure to determine and distribute medicine risks public exposure to fraudulent and/or unsafe medicine.
Massachusetts’ youth smoke marijuana at a rate 30% higher than the national average, where nearly one in three high school students currently smoke marijuana. In Stoughton, our local current youth marijuana use rates of 28% (2011 Stoughton High School Youth Survey) reflect these state numbers. In addition, Stoughton youth report decreased perceived risk of marijuana use. In 2011 only a 1/3 of Stoughton High Students reported that there is a great risk in smoking marijuana regularly (2011 Stoughton High School Youth Survey). Ballot Question 3 to legalize marijuana as medicine would increase both access to marijuana, and social acceptability of the drug - and the research clearly shows that these two variables have direct causal link to increased teen marijuana use. The risks of medical marijuana laws outweigh the benefits.