The Board of Selectmen had a heated discussion Tuesday night about the marijuana-as-medicine issue that is on next month's voting ballot.
Youth advocates told the board Tuesday night that, if Ballot Question No. 3 passes at the ballot box next month and access to marijuana becomes legal, it would pose a great risk to Medfield youth.
After being presented with information from Superintendent of Medfield Schools Robert Maguire, Medfield Chief of Police Robert Meaney Jr., and substance abuse counselor Carol Read, selectman Osler "Pete" Peterson proposed a motion that said the town of Medfield opposes Question No. 3, however, selectman Ann Thompson would not second the motion.
Selectman Mark Fisher did not attend the meeting.
"Just as we won't allow them to drink alcohol because alcohol affects their brain development, we shouldn't allow this either," Peterson said.
"This is great information to have but I just do not feel it is appropriate for the Board of Selectmen to take a stand on this," Thompson said, noting she has already cast her absentee ballot. "I just think some things we have to let people do on their own."
If the law passes, said the group, there will be marijuana dispensaries around the state (up to five in each county, to be run by anyone over 21 with no felony conviction); people can get a doctor's permission to legally carry a 60-day supply of their body; people can legally grow marijuana in their homes; and loopholes will be created where the law can be abused.
Thompson was asked to reconsider her position but she did not. She said she would consider the information and talk about it at the board's next meeting which is on election day. Peterson said that would be too late. Thompson implied that the voters of Medfield, with a population of 12,000, wouldn't "make a difference" on the state-wide vote.
Maguire, Meaney and Read said they each had empathy for people suffering who might want marijuana as medicine, and expressed concern that drug policy was being set through a public initiative ballot question when it should be regulated by the Federal Drug Administration.
They said the risks to the youth around the state far outweigh the benefits to those few patients.
"My purpose in speaking tonight is really to be informative, to use my knowledge and hopefully my presence, to express my concern about the serious consequences of this to the youth of the town and the state," Maguire said, adding that science shows that marijuana negatively affects brain development.
"The general public needs to be thoughtful about this issue, particulary as it affects young people...I would urge people to look at this legislation very carefully, to really examine the details of it," he said.
Maguire said on Tuesday that the use of marijuana among youth has increased in Medfield and across the state, and that a clear message needs to be sent to youth that Question No. 3 is bad legislation.
In 2010, Maguire and Meaney started Medfield Cares About Prevention (MCAP) with the goal of increasing substance abuse prevention efforts throughout the town.
"Young people have enough to deal with without the adult voters in the community supporting a question that could potentially make life a lot more difficult or complex for them," Meaney said. "I would like them to be as drug-free and substance-free as they possibly can" so they can realize their full potential.
Meaney said the use of marijuana in the community is on the rise and enforcement is an issue. He said his department had an incident on Saturday on Noon Hill Road where seven young people were in a car smoking marijuana.
"They were not Medfield people but that doesn't make a difference," he said, noting that by-law violations were issued, parents were called, someone had to deal with the car, etc. "We're seeing more and more of it."
Read, a Medfield resident, substance abuse counselor with the town of Needham, and Vice President of the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance, said the number of incidents of 'drugged driving' is higher in states that have passed the 'marijuana as medicine' law.
She said that one study shows that 74 percent of people who had marijuana got it from someone who had a card to carry it.
She said that, after marijuana was de-criminalized in Massachusetts in 2008, public health workers saw an increase in youth use rates, in large part because the message the legislation sent to the youth was that marijuana was okay to smoke.
"When the perception of risk goes down, youth use rates goes up," she said. "I want the residents here in Medfield and throughout the Commonwealth to understand that this legislation, in the way it's written, has a lot of loopholes."
"My primary take-away is that this ballot initiative, if it were to pass, would harm our youth, and I don't think we can stand by and allow something to harm the youth of Medfield," said Peterson. "I think we should send the message that this is something that would be detrimental to our community and our youth and we don't want it to happen."
For more, visit Peterson's blog, Medfield02052.
- Medfield Community Group Shows It Cares About Prevention
- Poll: Marijuana Use Among Medfield Youth