Pubdate: Thu, 14 Jul 2016
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2016 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: Alan Wartenberg


I am deeply concerned about both Joan Vennochi's column ("Like Bill 
Clinton, I didn't inhale," July 12) and the political coalition that 
opposes the marijuana legalization initiative ("Mass. leaders join 
against marijuana legislation"). While decriminalization in 
Massachusetts has been a worthwhile and successful step in reducing 
the number of arrests for marijuana possession, it has not gone far enough.

I have worked with the Committee for Public Counsel Services for many 
years, and found that police officers routinely charge people not 
only with possession, but with intent to distribute marijuana, which 
almost automatically adds in the school zone provision. Virtually 
everywhere in any urban area is within 1,000 feet of what is defined 
as a school zone. This brings felony conviction, mandatory minimum 
sentences, and the potential for total unemployability in the future, 
not to mention the harm that comes from prison time. It does so with 
no evidence that it accomplishes any positive purpose in the vast 
majority of those incarcerated, nor for society.

Most of those who use marijuana never use other, harder drugs, and 
the vast majority of marijuana users do not use it problematically. 
Most problematic use, as with alcohol, occurs in those with a history 
of underlying psychological and psychiatric issues, particularly 
early-life recurrent trauma. Vennochi writes that she doesn't want to 
"add [marijuana] to the mix." It has already been added.

There is no problem for anyone in the Commonwealth who wishes to 
obtain marijuana to find it. The problem is its illegality and the 
consequences of that, which far outweigh any harms that come of the drug.

Dr. Alan Wartenberg, Attleboro

The writer was formerly the medical director of Faulkner Hospital's 
addiction recovery program.
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