Pubdate: Mon, 16 Nov 2015
Source: Boston Herald (MA)
Copyright: 2015 The Boston Herald, Inc
Note: Prints only very short LTEs.
Author: Hillary Chabot


Undermines State's Opioid Crackdown

Several Bay State sheriffs are blasting an ongoing push to legalize 
marijuana amid a raging opiate epidemic - accusing some lawmakers and 
those behind pot legalization ballot initiatives of undercutting Gov. 
Charlie Baker's bipartisan opioid crackdown.

"It makes no sense," said Barnstable County Sheriff James M. 
Cummings. "We're here fighting opiates and now we're going to 
legalize another mindaltering substance?"

Baker is set to testify in support of his legislation on Beacon Hill 
today. The bill, which would limit prescriptions and give doctors the 
ability to send patients to addiction treatment, has high-profile 
backers like Mayor Martin J. Walsh and eight of the state's sheriffs.

But several of the same sheriffs who support the opiate bill told the 
Herald they are baffled by the push to legalize marijuana.

"I think it's a conflicting message. I'm trying to get handle on an 
epidemic, and so many addicts will tell you their path started with 
marijuana," said Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis. He added 
that even though not all people who smoke pot get addicted to heroin, 
"Why do we want to make it easier for people to go down that road?"

Massachusetts voters are likely to face a legalization question on 
the 2016 ballot, thanks to two special interest groups pushing to 
make recreational marijuana legal. State voters already legalized 
medical marijuana in 2014.

Meanwhile, Senate President Stan Rosenberg has tasked Sen. Jason 
Lewis (D-Winchester) with exploring both sides of the issue in an 
attempt to get a handle on mass marketing and the impact on 
communities before the vote. Lewis is expected to report his findings 
in the spring.

"Substance abuse of any kind is a very serious issue. The concept of 
marijuana as a gateway drug is one of the issues being studied," said 
Rosenberg in a statement. "I look forward to reviewing his extensive 
work on all areas of legalization."

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson feels Beacon Hill lawmakers who 
support legalization are setting a bad example.

"Why would anyone in public office want to add one more mind-altering 
drug to the mix?" Hodgson said. "We have been working to keep 
children away from drugs, not have elected officials to say this is a 
good thing."

Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana 
Like Alcohol ballot initiative, argued that pot isn't a gateway drug to heroin.

"That's like saying a flu shot will lead to autism, there's just no 
connection," he said, adding that many heroin addicts start with 
prescription pills. "Addiction is often about personality factors, 
and alcohol is the first one people try. It's hypocritical to punish 
adults for smoking marijuana yet allow them to drink alcohol."

Borghesani said the group has collected more than 100,000 signatures 
for the Nov. 18 ballot question deadline.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom