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Turco’s letter helps sway Gov. Baker on cannabis equity bill

Turco headshot_Cropped

  Last week S.3096, An Act relative to equity in the cannabis industry, became law in Massachusetts after receiving Governor Charlie Baker’s signature; however, Governor Baker decided to veto one section of the bill, Section 26. This section calls for the funding of a study that would determine the benefits of allowing students, potentially even elementary schoolers, to consume medical marijuana during the school day.

  Section 26 has been of paramount concern to Representative Jeffery Rosario Turco (D-Winthrop). Rep. Turco views this section as egregious, dangerous and absurd. “Drugs have absolutely no place at schools or around young children. Period. This is not a fact that requires a study to determine,” said Rep. Turco. “As a parent of six young kids, the idea that we would transition from ‘Just Say No’ to possibly mandating, and therefore normalizing, marijuana usage in our schools is beyond the pale. While I am deeply disappointed this atrocious section made it into the bill, I commend Governor Baker for taking swift and decisive action to remove it.”

  On August 15 the Massachusetts Senate referred the veto of Section 26 to its Committee on Ways and Means.

  In its entirely, Section 26 reads: (a) The cannabis control commission, in consultation with the department of elementary and secondary education and the department of public health, shall conduct a study on the possession, administration and consumption of medical marijuana, as defined in chapter 94I, at public or private schools in the commonwealth as it relates to students who have been issued valid registration cards pursuant to said chapter 94I. The study shall include, but not be limited to: (i) an examination of policies on the possession, administration and consumption of medical marijuana by students at public and private schools in the commonwealth; (ii) an analysis of existing legal, regulatory and administrative obstacles to possession, administration and consumption of medical use marijuana at public and private schools in the commonwealth; (iii) a survey of available methods of consumption, administration and storage of medical use marijuana at public and private schools; (iv) recommendations on best practices for public and private schools in the commonwealth to ensure that students have access to medical use marijuana while also maintaining a safe school environment for all students; and (v) recommendations on eliminating obstacles and expanding accommodations to possess, administer and consume medical use marijuana at public and private schools in the commonwealth.”

 

Dear Governor Baker,

   I write today urging you to veto Senate bill 3096, An Act relative to equity in the cannabis industry. While I harbor many reservations with this bill and with legalized marijuana generally, section 26 of S.3096 is particularly alarming.

   Section 26 is so egregious it bears repeating in its entirety:

The cannabis control commission, in consultation with the department of elementary and secondary education and the department of public health, shall conduct a study on the possession, administration and consumption of medical marijuana, as defined in chapter 94I, at public or private schools in the commonwealth as it relates to students who have been issued valid registration cards pursuant to said chapter 94I. The study shall include, but not be limited to: (i) an examination of policies on the possession, administration and consumption of medical marijuana by students at public and private schools in the commonwealth; (ii) an analysis of existing legal, regulatory and administrative obstacles to possession, administration and consumption of medical use marijuana at public and private schools in the commonwealth; (iii) a survey of available methods of consumption, administration and storage of medical use marijuana at public and private schools; (iv) recommendations on best practices for public and private schools in the commonwealth to ensure that students have access to medical use marijuana while also maintaining a safe school environment for all students; and (v) recommendations on eliminating obstacles and expanding accommodations to possess, administer and consume medical use marijuana at public and private schools in the commonwealth. (emphasis added)

   I opposed the ballot question allowing for the legalization of marijuana. I continue to believe the legalization effort is misguided and further that the United States government has abdicated its responsibility to faithfully enforce the law in this area. I accept however that the people of the Commonwealth have decided otherwise. That being said, section 26 is a bridge too far to comprehend. Slipped into the conference committee report, in the dark of night and without discussion or debate, this provision presents a clear and present danger to the safety and wellbeing of our school children. Teachers and school administrators have enough on their plates in a post Covid-19 world without adding state mandated drug use in our schools to their burden. At a time when the Commonwealth and the nation should be directing resources to making our schools safer, section 26 will do the opposite.

   As a parent of six young children, the idea that we would transition from “Just Say No” to possibly mandating, and therefore normalizing, marijuana use in our schools is beyond the pale. With your veto, you can protect our children from this misguided and dangerous effort. I offer the following additional thoughts for your consideration.

   First and foremost, marijuana is a gateway drug that can lead young people down self-destructive paths. Even if most children are not themselves getting high at school, placing them in an environment with others who are high can only lead to negative outcomes. Students would start to develop the belief, potentially even in elementary school, that doings drugs is completely ok. After all, if the teachers, administrators and nurses do not seem to take issue with some students getting high during the school day, then how bad can drugs really be?

   Secondly, classrooms featuring students high on marijuana are less productive classrooms than full of sober students. According to the CDC, when people get high they often have trouble focusing, learning and remembering. Their thinking becomes foggy and impaired. They may become paranoid, losing their sense of time and place. In other words, people who are high often become distractions for people who are not. That is detrimental to any learning environment, especially one with young and impressionable students. Again, this simply boils down to the following question: would you prefer your child in a classroom with or without other students high on drugs?

   Drugs have absolutely no place at schools or around young children. Period. This is not a fact that requires a study to determine. In fact, it was a universally held piece of common sense up until, apparently, the passage of S.3096. Governor Baker, I implore you to veto section 26, if possible, and if not, the entirety of S.3096. With your veto, you can protect our children from this misguided and dangerous effort.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey Rosario Turco

State Representative

Nineteenth Suffolk District

Revere – Winthrop

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