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MA Speaker: Use Cannabis Taxes to Help Fight Opioid Addiction

March 7, 2017
White pain killers spill from med bottle
BOSTON (AP) — A top Democratic lawmaker says he wants to use tax revenue from legal marijuana sales to help fund the state’s battle against opioid addiction.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo unveiled the proposal on Tuesday during a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.


America’s Opioid Crisis: Can High-CBD Cannabis Combat Pain and Reduce Addiction Rates?

The Winthrop Democrat called for creation of a Substance Addiction Fund using proceeds from cannabis sales, which are not expected to begin in Massachusetts until mid-2018 at the earliest. He compared it to a trust fund that was created from casino revenues to prevent and treat gambling addiction.

During the campaign last year, DeLeo joined Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh to oppose Question 4, which legalized cannabis for adult use. DeLeo said he felt he would have been a hypocrite to support cannabis legalization as he works to fight the opioid abuse epidemic. He depicted cannabis as a gateway drug despite a lack of scientific evidence to support that claim.


U.S. Attorney General Says Cannabis Is Not a Gateway Drug

In fact, states that have legalized cannabis have actually seen decreases in opioid use. And in September 2016, then-US Attorney General Loretta Lynch argued that it was prescription drugs, not cannabis, that fed the nation’s opioid epidemic.

“When talk about heroin addiction, we usually, as we have mentioned, are talking about individuals that started out with a prescription drug problem,” she said. “And then because they need more and more, they turn to heroin. It isn’t so much that marijuana is the step right before using prescription drugs or opioids.”

A legislative committee was recently formed to consider changes to the voter-approved recreational marijuana law, including possible adjustments to the 3.75 percent excise tax on legal cannabis sales. Many lawmakers believe that tax rate is too low.

Also on Tuesday, Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking him to clarify how the Department of Justice plans to enforce federal marijuana laws. Goldberg is charged with overseeing a new, voter-approved state law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.


If Sessions Resigns, Who’s Next in Line?

She pointed to comments by White House officials suggesting stepped-up enforcement. That marks a change from the Obama administration which opted against intervening in local marijuana laws provided states had systems to control the drug’s cultivation and sale.

Last week senators from eight states that have legalized the recreational or medicinal use of marijuana sent Sessions a letter asking the Department of Justice to continue existing enforcement efforts.

Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey were among those who signed the letter.


This story was originally published by the Associated Press and contains additional reporting by Leafly News staff.

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Leafly Staff

Leafly is the world’s largest cannabis information resource, empowering people in legal cannabis markets to learn about the right products for their lifestyle and wellness needs. Our team of cannabis professionals collectively share years of experience in all corners of the market, from growing and retail, to science and medicine, to data and technology.

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  • Chauncey X

    Great idea but with all the foot dragging and pandering to local communities that go all NIMBY at the thought of a dispensary (while quietly deciding how they will spend the tax revenue) it’s not likely to work.. Especially with the extra delay.
    If they do what everyone is afraid of the taxes will be so high it might even strengthen the black market.
    And let’s not forget the legislature had a chance to help write the bill but they passed on it but NOW they want to neuter the people’s will

  • Michelle McHugh

    Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg sends up a RED FLAG to Sessions the redneck righty asking if it is ok if we can smoke some pot. Thanks. you moron.

    Another moron, Deleo thinks pot users and opioid users or somehow connected by a gateway. Let me put ya straight DeLeo, we pot users don’t do opioids. Only in your mind. So we don’t want to support your drug war, or rehab or nicotine, or alcohol side businesses
    Go ahead and jack up your taxes to 20000% You have already lost. We will OVERGROW YOU. POT WILL BE EVERYWHERE.