President and executive director of EB Hope, a coalition that fights substance abuse in East Bridgewater
As an East Bridgewater resident, parent of a high schooler and of a 30-year-old in recovery, and founder of EB Hope, I support the proposed ban on marijuana retail sales in our town.
My son’s addiction journey began with marijuana at the age of 12, morphing into a full-blown addiction to heroin by age 20. At 18, he was given a prescription for OxyContin after surgery; the road that was paved in his brain using marijuana became a super highway that led to 10 long difficult years.
His story is the same one we hear repeatedly at the EB Hope Drop-In Center, a regional resource center for those suffering from substance-use disorders. The center helps anyone who is suffering from any substance, including marijuana. More than 75 percent of people who have opiate-use disorders tell us in our intake survey that marijuana was the first drug they used; on average, they began using it at 12-16 years old.
For those who want to say it isn’t a gateway drug, speak to people in recovery from opioid use, and they will tell you -- as they do at our center -- that the path that led them to opioid-use disorder started with marijuana, cigarettes, alcohol, and their exposure to childhood trauma.
The rationale to allow retail marijuana sales because “we allow alcohol to be sold in town -- why not marijuana” is ridiculous. We are in a drug crisis like never seen before in our history. We understand alcohol disease is a significant problem in our country and in our community, and we need to do more to prevent minors from using alcohol. But we don’t need to add fuel to the fire by providing our teenagers and young adults greater access to another abused substance.
The epidemic of substance-use disorder is taking a serious toll on a generation; why would we not want to do all we can to stop it? Limit access in our community to our most vulnerable and potentially affected, those under the age of 25, by voting to ban the retail sale of marijuana in East Bridgewater.
East Bridgewater School Committee member, attorney, father of two school-aged children
East Bridgewater residents should not ban marijuana-related businesses in town. Our town, like many other similar communities, suffers from a high property tax rate and a small commercial tax base. As a result, we struggle to adequately fund our public schools. The marijuana industry in Massachusetts is poised to bring significant revenues into cities and towns that can look beyond the hysteria and misinformation spread by opponents of such businesses and see the opportunities they offer.
Colorado, which legalized marijuana in 2014, had more than $1.3 billion in marijuana-related sales in 2016 and collected nearly $200 million in tax revenues from those sales. Massachusetts, with a larger population than Colorado’s, stands to see even higher numbers. Marijuana-related businesses, whether recreational or medicinal dispensaries, packaging/distribution centers, grow facilities, craft cultivators, or testing facilities, bring more than just the potential for rent, property taxes, and the local option sales tax available to towns where they locate. They also bring with them the jobs that are a byproduct of any legal business.
As a father of two children, I also fear that a ban on marijuana-related businesses will encourage the black-market drug dealers in town to flourish. Like communities all over Massachusetts, our town has had its share of illegal drug dealer arrests. Often local drug dealers aren’t just selling pot to kids; they also peddle opiates and other hard drugs, lace their marijuana with dangerous substances, and can bring the violence that accompanies any black market industry. The best way to keep our children away from these criminals is to put them out of business. Bootleggers disappeared when prohibition was repealed. The same will happen to illegal pot dealers when marijuana is available from a state-regulated and licensed dispensary and can only be purchased by adults with a valid ID proving they are 21 years of age.
Massachusetts voters have spoken. Marijuana, both medicinal and recreational, is now legal in our state. Bans on marijuana-related businesses are comparable to sticking our heads in the sand. The wiser and more profitable course is to recognize the benefits these businesses offer to our towns and, carefully and thoughtfully, take advantage of them.
(This is an informal poll, not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.)As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.