By Seth Daniel
The state superintendent’s organization, which includes Revere Supt. Dianne Kelly, has officially come out against the legalization of marijuana ballot question that will appear on the November ballot.
Superintendents across the state in the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS), including Kelly and Chelsea Superintendent Mary Bourque – the incoming MASS president, have officially taken a position against the ballot question in November that would legalize marijuana.
“My problem with the legalization of marijuana is it sends mixed-messages to kids,” said Kelly. “We understand marijuana to be a gateway drug. We do everything we can in the School Department to educate kids about health concerns. To legalize marijuana sends mixed messages to kids about what is healthy…It’s still a narcotic that’s not allowed in schools, just like alcohol. Kids are under the impression with legalization that marijuana is ok and legal even though it’s not allowed here. I don’t know that those who are pushing to make marijuana legal have considered these implications for kids.”
In November, in what is expected to be a large turnout for the presidential election, voters in Massachusetts will also vote on whether or not to legalize marijuana. It will come in the form of a ballot question.
The new law would make marijuana legal for those 21 and over, and users would be able to keep up to 10 ounces of marijuana in their homes. They would also be able to carry an ounce with them. Marijuana would be able to be bought in plant form and also within other products.
The state would like, if approved by the voters, start accepting applications for potential retailers in October 2017. Retail establishments would not likely be able to open until 2018.
Residents also would be able to grow up to six plants in their home, provided they are over 21, and no more than 12 plants in a household could be cultivated.
All recreational sales would be taxed at 6.25 percent sales tax, plus an excise tax of 3.75 percent. Local taxes could also be placed on sales. Smokers could not smoke in public places or anywhere that tobacco smoking is prohibited, but it does allow for the creation of cannabis cafes.
A three-person Cannabis Control Commission would regulate all things to do with marijuana at the state level within the State Treasurer’s Office.
Bourque, a Chelsea resident who will become the president of MASS on May 19, said it’s not the path that education leaders think is right for the state’s young people.
“As the MASS organization, we feel very deeply this is not the right path to go down,” she said. “Much research has been done on brain development and adolescents and what we know about marijuana is that it impeded brain development and keeps kids from reaching their full potential academically and socially. When we decriminalized it (four years ago), we set a new community norm. When you make something legal, you make it seem like it’s not as bad…I do believe we have changed societal norms in favor of this and have made this very dangerous for the next generation.”
She said one thing that needs to be pointed out is that the marijuana of today is much stronger than that 20 or 30 years ago.
“That’s a piece of information no really out in the public,” she said. “The THC content has about quadrupled from 20 years ago. One ounce today is drastically different than one ounce 20 years ago in terms of the high kids get and the damage done to the brain.”
MASS has issued an official letter opposing the legalization of marijuana this November.