After 53.6% of Massachusetts voters cast their ballots to legalize recreational marijuana in November, citizens and elected officials have expressed concerns about the language of the passed initiative. The state legislature is now working to potentially revamp the specifics of the law, which began with a bill passed December 28 that delays the opening of recreational marijuana stores until July 2018.
Residents in the town of Weston mostly voted against legalization, with 55.9% of its population answering no to Question 4.
A December poll of WHS students reflected these numbers. 53.3% of students said that they were not OK with the decision to legalize recreational marijuana. This including a staggering 72.7% of freshmen.
“For recreational use, with the number of teenagers suffering from high stress, [marijuana legalization] would not be a good idea,” said freshman Nikki Liu, Student Advisory Council representative for the class of 2020.
Senior Caroline Donahue said she was concerned about the lack of research on marijuana usage, and was wary of possible effects on the body and mind.
“There was one study done on a man who smoked it, and his IQ dropped by four points,” Donahue said.
Other students expressed similar wariness.
“I think it’s just really terrible for your brain and your general health,” said senior Steven Wang.
While some students responded positively to the legalization, there were a fair amount of worries expressed about how the drug will be commercialized.
“I don’t want big pharmacy getting its hands on it, as this will provide a profit to corrupt politicians,” said junior Demetrius Iatridis.
Junior Dexter Peters expressed a similar concern that he “doesn’t want to see ads for it; it shouldn’t be a very commercialized product.”
According to our poll, only 24.4% of students would ever consider using marijuana recreationally when they were old enough to legally do so. Only one freshman out of the 22 polled said they would think about using it. This may have been influenced by the health curriculum, which had recently delivered instruction to the freshman health classes on the risks of substance abuse.
However, according to a Weston Youth Health Assessment survey conducted April 10, 2015 and administered to all 631 students in the high school, 40% of students said they had used marijuana at some point, and 25% of students had used it less than 30 days before the survey.
Yet poll numbers from 2005-2011 showed a decrease in substance use which correlated with an enhancement in the health curriculum that discussed substance abuse, according to health and wellness teacher Danielle Cooper. Usage rates have been increasing since then, which appears to be linked to the loss of grant money specifically earmarked for substance abuse education, Cooper said.
“We are acutely aware that in order to significantly reduce rates of substance use in school that we would require much greater resources of time and money that the district is currently unwilling or unable to allocate at this time,” director of wellness education Mitch Finnegan said.
Cooper said marijuana legalization will not prompt change in the health curriculum.
“We focus on how substance use affects both the body and brain. Changes in the legal status of marijuana use will be discussed, but will not impact delivery of instruction,” she said.
Principal Anthony Parker said that he does not currently foresee a major shift in the realm of marijuana usage among students, as the law only applies to adults 21 or older.
“We’ll have to wait and see. If we see that there are steps that we need to take, or do something differently, we will do that,” Parker said.
Since December 15, it has been legal for adults 21 and older to possess 10 ounces of marijuana for personal use. However, the House is currently debating both raising the age for possession and lowering the amount permitted per household user.