Superintendent’s Organizationagainst Legalization of Marijuana

By Seth Daniel

The state superintendent’s organization, which includes Chelsea Supt. Mary Bourque, 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 Revere Supt. Dianne Kelly and Chelsea’s Bourque – the incoming MASS president, have officially taken a position against the ballot question in November that would legalize marijuana.

“As the MASS organization, we feel very deeply this is not the right path to go down,” Bourque 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.”

Kelly, from neighboring Revere, said it counters what has been taught about good health in the schools.

“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, 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. 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.

10 comments for “Superintendent’s Organizationagainst Legalization of Marijuana

  1. Stel-1776
    May 13, 2016 at 8:56 am

    it sends mixed-messages to kids

    What is the message that we send with cannabis prohibition? Is the message that we no longer believe in justice? Cannabis is objectively less harmful than legal alcohol both to the user and especially to others, therefore any law against cannabis should be no worse than that of alcohol. Trivializing this vital founding principle of our nation sets a precedent far more dangerous than anything legal cannabis can do.

    Is the message that drugs are bad? The hypocrisy in this message is immediately realized as we routinely use and prescribe a wide variety of drugs, many of them addictive and mind-altering such as alcohol, Ritalin, and Oxycodone. The message that controlled substances are particularly bad is undermined when about half of all teens experiment with cannabis and realize that they were for the most part lied to about its dangers. This casts doubt as to the government honesty regarding the harms of truly dangerous drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and meth, increasing the likelihood of experimentation with them.

  2. Stel-1776
    May 13, 2016 at 8:56 am

    We understand marijuana to be a gateway drug

    The gateway concept is frequently brought up. Over the years I have collected much information on the subject.

    If prohibition has any effect, it makes cannabis a gateway to other illicit drugs.

    The gateway drug theory, that a unique pharmacological effect of cannabis causes the use of hard drugs, has been discredited by the many peer reviewed studies which have examined it.[1,2,3,4,5,6,14,15,16,19,24]

    If the gateway theory were to have any merit, then alcohol and tobacco would be the true gateway drugs as nearly all have tried these before cannabis.[1,6,23] There are many factors that determine which illicit substance will be used first, including availability and culture. In Japan, where cannabis use is not popular and largely frowned upon, 83% of illicit drug users did not use illicit cannabis first.[19] In the U.S., since cannabis is by far the most popular and available illegal recreational substance, it is unlikely that you would find many illicit hard drug users who did not encounter and use illicit cannabis first.[1] This does not mean cannabis caused their hard drug use. Rather it was their pre-existing interest in recreational substances combined with their willingness to try illicit substances and cannabis was simply, and predictably, the first encountered.[3,14,19]

    On a related note, studies have shown that cannabinoids can help treat those addicted to hard drugs and alcohol, and that it is an “exit drug” for some.[4,7,18,22]

    If anything, the prohibition of cannabis makes the hard drug problem worse. Once someone breaks the law to try the very popular and relatively safe drug cannabis, their reluctance to try another illegal substance diminishes. This is both because of their newly increased doubts of government honesty regarding the harmful effects of those substances as well, and their newly reduced respect for laws against drugs in general. Cannabis prohibition also connects cannabis consumers to the hard drug market. Imagine if beer merchants also sold heroin, cocaine and meth. This is the situation that the prohibition of cannabis creates for its consumers. It places a very popular substance into these otherwise unpopular markets, strengthening them and expanding their reach. Also, with no legal recourse to resolve disputes, cannabis prohibition increases the crime associated with these markets.

    Efforts to prevent hard drug abuse are undermined and resources misspent when gateway theory is accepted as valid. A recent extensive review on the subject concluded that: “The promotion of the erroneous gateway theory ultimately does the public a disservice, including the hindering of intervention.”[19]

    Regardless, one major concern is that relaxed laws will lead to significantly increased teen usage, but this has not been the case.[20] Legalizing medical cannabis in the U.S. has not increased cannabis usage in teens.[8,9,10,11,21] Decriminalization does not result in increased cannabis consumption, for any age group, except for a small, temporary increase during the first few years.[12,13] Portugal saw reduced adolescent cannabis use after decriminalizing all drugs in 2001.[17]


    1. Joy et al. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. Institute of Medicine. 1999.
    2. Morral et al. Reassessing the marijuana gateway effect. Drug Policy Research Center, RAND. Addiction. 2002.
    3. Cleveland HH & Wiebe RP. Understanding the association between adolescent marijuana use and later serious drug use: gateway effect or developmental trajectory? Dev Psychopathol. 2008.
    4. O’Connell TJ & Bou-Matar CB. Long term marijuana users seeking medical cannabis in California (2001–2007): demographics, social characteristics, patterns of cannabis and other drug use of 4117 applicants. Harm Reduction Journal. 2007.
    5. Wen et al. The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Marijuana, Alcohol, and Hard Drug Use. The National Bureau of Economic Research. 2014.
    6. Tristan et al. Alcohol as a Gateway Drug: A Study of US 12th Graders. Journal of School Health. 2012.
    7. Oliere et al. Modulation of the Endocannabinoid System: Vulnerability Factor and New Treatment Target for Stimulant Addiction. Front Psychiatry. 2013. Review.
    8. Choo et al. The Impact of State Medical Marijuana Legislation on Adolescent Marijuana Use. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2014.
    9. Lynne-Landsman et al. Effects of state medical marijuana laws on adolescent marijuana use. Am J Public Health. 2013.
    10. Harper et al. Do medical marijuana laws increase marijuana use? Replication study and extension. Ann Epidemiol. 2012.
    11. Anderson et al. Medical Marijuana Laws and Teen Marijuana Use. IZA 2012.
    12. Williams J, Bretteville-Jensen AL. Does liberalizing cannabis laws increase cannabis use? J Health Econ. 2014.
    13. Single EW. The impact of marijuana decriminalization: an update. J Public Health Policy. 1989.
    14. Tarter et al. Predictors of Marijuana Use in Adolescents Before and After Licit Drug Use: Examination of the Gateway Hypothesis. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 2006.
    15. Van Gundy K & Rebellon CJ. A Life-course Perspective on the “Gateway Hypothesis”. J Health Soc Behav. 2010.
    16. Tarter et al. Predictors of marijuana use in adolescents before and after licit drug use: examination of the gateway hypothesis. Am J Psychiatry. 2006.
    17. Hughes C E and Stevens A. What Can We Learn From The Portuguese Decriminalization of Illicit Drugs?. Brit J Criminol. 2010.
    18. Reiman A. Cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs. Harm Reduct J. 2009.
    19. Vanyukov et al. Common liability to addiction and “gateway hypothesis”: theoretical, empirical and evolutionary perspective. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2012. Review.
    20. Simons-Morton et al. Cross-national comparison of adolescent drinking and cannabis use in the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands. Int J Drug Policy. 2010.
    21. Hasin et al. Medical marijuana laws and adolescent marijuana use in the USA from 1991 to 2014: results from annual, repeated cross-sectional surveys. The Lancet. 2015.
    22. Bisaga et al. The effects of dronabinol during detoxification and the initiation of treatment with extended release naltrexone. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015.
    23. Barry et al. Prioritizing Alcohol Prevention: Establishing Alcohol as the Gateway Drug and Linking Age of First Drink With Illicit Drug Use. J Sch Health. 2016.
    24. Degenhardt et al. Evaluating the drug use “gateway” theory using cross-national data: consistency and associations of the order of initiation of drug use among participants in the WHO World Mental Health Surveys. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2010.

  3. Stel-1776
    May 13, 2016 at 8:57 am

    The large majority of adverse effects regarding cannabis are associated with (not necessarily caused by) heavy, regular, long-term adolescent use. This is the type of use that a legalized and regulated approach can reduce.

    Currently kids have nearly unfettered, regular access to cannabis in our unregulated market. Over a third of teens say it would take less than a few hours to buy cannabis according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. The federally funded Monitoring the Future Survey reports over 80% of high school seniors have found marijuana “fairly easy to obtain” for three decades, from 1975 to 2005. This number has peaked in 1998 at 90.4%. Despite recent medicinal and adult recreational legalization, this number has been steadily dropping since 2005. As of 2015 it is 79.5%.

    It is regular use by teens that is the primary concern. Regular teen access will not increase with legalization. If there is any change, it will likely continue to decrease as the main supply channels are moved above ground where they can be easily monitored and cannabis not purchased at will by teens as it is now. At the very least we would take the cannabis they are getting from the criminal drug dealer of unknown character, with unknown potency, unknown purity (it could be laced, contaminated, etc), who never ID’s, and put the supply in the hands of licensed, regulated retailers who are not going to try and also sell hard drugs, or even have access to hard drugs. We will also ensure that kids who happen to get caught in possession of cannabis, or worse, selling it to a friend, do not have their life ruined by the law intended to protect them.

    The federal organization SAMHSA has shown that, despite greater acceptance, more lenient laws, and legalization for medical purposes, past year cannabis use by those aged 12 to 17 has dropped from 15.8% in 2002 to 13.4% in 2013. The perceived availability of cannabis has also dropped from 55% to 48.6% in this time. Multiple peer-reviewed studies have shown that medical marijuana laws have not led to increased teen usage [Hasin et al. 2015; Choo et al. 2014; Lynne-Landsman et al. 2013; Harper et al. 2012; Anderson et al. 2012].

    Teen cannabis usage dropped in Portugal when they decriminalized in 2001 [Hughes and Stevens. 2010]. The Netherlands have tolerated sales for years in ‘coffee shops’. As of 2011, both countries have lower overall past year usage rates, 3.6% and 5.4% respectively, than the U.S. which is 13.7% [WDR 2011]. Note that in the same time frame in which the war on drugs has been waging since the 1970’s, overall tobacco use has dropped from about 45% to 18%, without criminalizing millions of tobacco users, whereas overall cannabis use went up.

    Peer-reviewed studies have shown that lenient cannabis policies are not associated with elevated adolescent use:

    Despite considerable changes in state marijuana policies over the past 15 years, marijuana use among high school students has largely declined
    [Johnson et al. Past 15-year trends in adolescent marijuana use: Differences by race/ethnicity and sex. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015]

    the data provide no evidence that strict marijuana laws in the United States provide protective effects compared to the similarly restrictive but less vigorously enforced laws in place in Canada, and the regulated access approach in the Netherlands.
    [Simons-Morton et al. Cross-national comparison of adolescent drinking and cannabis use in the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands. Int J Drug Policy. 2010]

    Cannabis prohibition does not result in a significant reduction in problematic teen use. It does however result in harmful policies and criminal penalties that adversely affect the future of millions of children.

    Regardless, criminalizing adults for the possession of something that children should not have is not reasonable or consistent with our legal system.

    Colorado legalized recreational cannabis use in Dec 2012 (Jan 2014 for recreational sales). It has been legal medicinally for over a decade. They have not experienced the surge in teen use predicted by prohibitionists:

    Past Month Colorado High School Cannabis Use
    2009: 24.8%
    2011: 22.0%
    2013: 19.7%
    [SOURCE: 2009 and 2012 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results – Colorado High School Survey Summary Table; 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey Results – Colorado High School Summary Tables]

    Past Month National High School Cannabis Use
    2009: 20.8%
    2011: 23.1%
    2013: 23.4%
    [SOURCE: CDC – Trends in the Prevalence of Marijuana, Cocaine, and Other Illegal Drug Use National YRBS: 1991— 2013]

    Past Month Colorado Middle School Cannabis Use
    2011: 6.0%
    2013: 5.1%
    [SOURCE:Overview Of The 2011 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey: Middle School; Healthy Kids Colorado Survey Middle School Overview of 2013 Data]


    -Hasin et al. Medical marijuana laws and adolescent marijuana use in the USA from 1991 to 2014: results from annual, repeated cross-sectional surveys. The Lancet. 2015.
    -Hughes C E and Stevens A. What Can We Learn From The Portuguese Decriminalization of Illicit Drugs?. Brit J Criminol. 2010.
    -Choo et al. The Impact of State Medical Marijuana Legislation on Adolescent Marijuana Use. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2014.
    -Lynne-Landsman et al. Effects of state medical marijuana laws on adolescent marijuana use. Am J Public Health. 2013.
    -Harper et al. Do medical marijuana laws increase marijuana use? Replication study and extension. Ann Epidemiol. 2012.
    -Anderson et al. Medical Marijuana Laws and Teen Marijuana Use. IZA 2012.
    -World Drug Report 2011. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

  4. Franklin
    May 13, 2016 at 9:07 am

    It’s about teaching people the truth. Marijuana is by far safer than alcohol. We can teach the kids and adults the truth. Childhood isn’t the time to be experimenting with any substance. But the criminal market has never stopped selling to kids.

    The message we are sending to kids is called honesty. They shouldn’t be drinking or smoking anything until they go off to college where most experimenting happens. If you teach people that marijuana is as strong as cocaine, when they experiment with marijuana they are now wide open for the hard drug. Directly because of the boogeyman fairy-tale. Now they have learned that drug education is a myth. Then they get hooked on prescriptive drugs or meth because someone did’t have the guts to be honest in the first place.

    The only connection with regulated market can be seen in the Dutch Experiment where eventually young people in Holland lost interest and it’s remained below US levels. That is what happens.

  5. malcolmkyle
    May 13, 2016 at 9:53 am

    Prohibition has given birth to forfeiture laws that have allowed citizens to be robbed of both money and property without charge or conviction of any crime—what sort of message does that send to our kids?

    Prohibition­ has helped to make all manner of substances freely available in schools, and even prisons—what sort of message does that send to our kids?

    Prohibition has raised gang warfare to a level not seen since the days of alcohol bootlegging—what sort of message does that send to our kids?

    Prohibition has created a prison-for-profit synergy with drug-lords, terrorists, and corrupt law enforcement agencies—what sort of message does that send to our kids?

  6. malcolmkyle
    May 13, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Health concerns regarding cannabis/marijuana tend to come from a self-fueling group of discredited scientists funded by the pharmaceutical, prison, tobacco, and alcohol industries. They push non-peer-reviewed papers, fraught with conjecture and confounding variables, while relying upon reports issued by others in their own group to further support their own grossly misleading research and clearly biased agendas.

    Here’s the real science:

    Study: Cannabis/Marijuana Use Not Predictive Of Lower IQ, Poorer Educational Performance

    “… to test the relationships between cumulative cannabis use and IQ at the age of 15 and educational performance at the age of 16. After full adjustment, those who had used cannabis more than 50 times did not differ from never-users on either IQ or educational performance. Adjusting for group differences in cigarette smoking dramatically attenuated the associations between cannabis use and both outcomes, and further analyses demonstrated robust associations between cigarette use and educational outcomes, even with cannabis users excluded. These findings suggest that adolescent cannabis use is not associated with IQ or educational performance once adjustment is made for potential confounds, in particular adolescent cigarette use.”

    Source: C Mokrysz, et al. Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit, University College London. Published January 6, 2016 in Journal of Psychopharmacology.

    Daily Cannabis/Marijuana Use Is Not Associated with Brain Morphometric Measures in Adolescents or Adults

    “No statistically significant differences were found between daily users and nonusers on volume or shape in the regions of interest. Effect sizes suggest that the failure to find differences was not due to a lack of statistical power, but rather was due to the lack of even a modest effect. In sum, the results indicate that, when carefully controlling for alcohol use, gender, age, and other variables, there is no association between marijuana use and standard volumetric or shape measurements of subcortical structures.”

    The Journal of Neuroscience, 28 January 2015, 35(4): 1505-1512; doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2946-14.2015

    The Duke University (New Zealand) Dunedin study, the one which claimed that smoking cannabis/marijuana in your teens leads to a long-term drop in IQ, has been utterly rebuked by a later paper published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They examined the research and found its methodology to be flawed.

    “…existing research suggests an alternative confounding model based on time-varying effects of socioeconomic status on IQ. A simulation of the confounding model reproduces the reported associations from the [August 2012 study], suggesting that the causal effects estimated in Meier et al. are likely to be overestimates, and that the true effect could be zero”.

    —Ole Rogeberg.

    “The conclusions were modest in the paper. we never said cannabis/marijuana caused these changes. The media may have given that impression in headlines, but the study doesn’t show causation. I think I saw one headline that was ‘Marijuana reshapes the brain’ and I groaned –that’s not what we did,”

    — Dr. Jodi Gilman, 31, author of the Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital study on marijuana’s effects, in an interview with PolicyMic.

  7. Wally
    May 13, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    Seth Daniel:

    You do your readers a disservice.

    You would do better to substantiate any of the claims made by the people you are quoting. Sure, quoting what someone says is valid news as you are only reporting what they said. But when what that person says is wrong or unsubstantiated, quoting it only serves to further perpetuate bad information.
    When important decisions are made based on false, inaccurate or blatantly ridiculous information all of society suffers.

  8. Doug Nickerson
    May 13, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    Every anti marijuana article I have read twists these same facts. They act like alcohol does not exist or it is illegal. Studies have shown that alcohol affects the adolescent brain in the same way as marijuana. If they truly do not want to send a mixed signal to our youth, then make alcohol illegal too. There is no evidence that marijuana is a gateway drug, but the fact marijuana currently has to bought from a drug dealer is more likely the gateway issue. Next they are concerned about that it opens the door to high octane THC, but you can buy 150 proof alcohol, in addition the ballot proposal requires users to keep marijuana under lock and key, but alcohol has no such requirement. Why does common sense get thrown out the door by those with authority, in the name of trying to protect us.

  9. familyguy
    May 14, 2016 at 7:39 am

    We also need to tech our kids how bad policy has created the highest prisoner population in the world. The US has more prisoners than China, North Korea and all other countries we assume are the “the bad guys”. The incarceration model has also broken more families than any other drug or system in all countries US, Mexico, Colombia etc. Legalize and stop the madness! Go vote!

  10. Charles Davy
    May 17, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    Coming from people who are probably sucking down a bottle of wine every night when they get home.

    Alcohol is much worse for the brain, the body, families, and society than weed however it’s legal.

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