The Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, saying it is worried legalizing marijuana for adults will make it easier for kids to gain access to the drug, came out Wednesday against a likely ballot question to make marijuana legal for recreational use.
“As superintendents, our primary focus is on helping each and every student reach their full potential, and we believe the commercial legalization of marijuana runs directly counter to that goal,” the executive director of the association, Tom Scott, said in a statement. “Where marijuana is legal, we see increased use and abuse by young people.”
Backers disputed that claim.
“We’ve actually seen use among young people remain flat or go down in Colorado,” where recreational marijuana sales for adults began in 2014, said Jim Borghesani, spokesman for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts, which is backing the ballot effort in this state.
“We think the more dangerous market is the one that exists today — where drug dealers don’t ask for IDs,” Borghesani said, echoing a main argument of backers that children will be safer when marijuana sales move from the street to licensed stores that sell only to adults.
Studies have found different results on the issue.
The group of education leaders, which represents 277 superintendents and 148 assistant superintendents, joins several other organizations opposing the referendum.
The Massachusetts Hospital Association, Massachusetts Medical Society, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts — a business group that represents employers — and every district attorney in the state have also come out in opposition to the legalization push.
Much of the political activity against the effort is coming from the recently formed Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, which is backed by politicians including Governor Charlie Baker and Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston.
Should the proposed law make the ballot, and should voters green-light it in November, possessing, using, and giving away 1 ounce or less of recreational marijuana would be legal for adults 21 and older as of Dec. 15, and retail sales could start in January 2018.
Opponents insist legal marijuana will harm kids, families, and communities. They worry it would boost the accessibility of marijuana for youth and increase the perception among kids that marijuana is safe.
Backers counter that legalization would end more than a century of failed prohibition that has ensnared otherwise law-abiding citizens in the criminal justice system. They argue it would divert money from criminal syndicates to companies operating on the up and up. And they maintain legal marijuana sales would help fill state coffers with new tax dollars.
Joshua Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.