READING - The Board of Health met with Board of Selectmen Chairman John Halsey at their last meeting, to discuss marijuana regulation and the upcoming April ballot question regarding the commercial sale of marijuana in Reading.
The ballot question urged by the Selectmen is in response to the statewide passing of November’s Question 4 regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana, and Reading voters opposition to the legalization by a margin of 54% to 46%.
The Board of Selectmen’s hope was for Board of Health members to give a statement regarding the possible commercial distribution of recreational Marijuana and in particular how it may affect minors.
Halsey began the discussion affirming the town’s aim to prevent youth use of recreational marijuana, a point which all Board of Health members were in agreeance with.
“I don’t want to have anything to do with telling adults how they should behave.” Board of Health Chairman John Costigan said, in reference to research he had recently done regarding the effects of Marijuana use on children and how the town can work to limit Marijuana access to minors.
Board member Nancy Docktor was not in attendance at the meeting but did submit a statement regarding The Board’s previous comments on the April ballot question. “I’m not sure about the Board of Health seemingly being asked to take a position or give a statement on a ballot question.” Docktor’s statement read. “That being expressed, I thought the statement had too many bias overtones and perhaps it would be best being issued by RCASA (Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse). Which is completely understandable when marijuana questions elicit emotional responses”.
Docktor continued “I believe the Board of Health article on the toxicity of recreational drugs did a good job on providing data to the public. Case in point, if I had written this statement my personal bias would have been evident in pointing out that prohibition doesn’t work. The best way to mitigate the negative impact on public health from legalized marijuana would be to enact a strong regulatory framework as seen in Washington and Colorado. Regulations do work and I would prefer Reading would take the steps to write marijuana regulations rather than letting some surrounding town do a poor job; however that would infer support of the sale of Marijuana”.
Docktor added “I have pointed out that Mass has over 2,000 deaths from opioid overdoses. The only thing that has apparently decreased opioid overdoses is the availability of medical Marijuana, according to JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) and RAND Corp. There lies some implication to recreational marijuana as well. Again that information serves to influence voters.” Ms. Doctor’s statement went on to say that “This issue is very complex. The Reading voters did not reflect the state vote and I suspect they have not over the course of a few months changed their position. Without more research we (The Board of Health) are very limited in what we can actually give as scientific data.”
As a whole, The Board of Health felt similarly to Ms. Doctor’s statement, reluctant to weigh in on the ballot question, citing the complicated nature of current Marijuana legislation and the lack of substantial scientific evidence of Marijuana’s effects on users. In lieu of the ability to speak concretely on the matter of April’s ballot question, The Board of Health motioned to schedule another meeting in order to deliberate on the subject of commercial distribution of Marijuana.
The Board of Health has scheduled the meeting for March 28th at 5:30 p.m. in the Berger room at Town Hall.