The high road to hell


There will very likely be a ballot question in 2016 seeking to legalize recreational marijuana in Massachusetts. We know this because the activists who in 2012 successfully perpetrated the “medical” marijuana scam are the same people who are now working on the 2016 ballot question to make pot available for recreational use.

marijuanaSo much for their deep concern for the sick.

You’d have to be very naïve to believe that medical marijuana was anything but a foot in the door toward full legalization.

Thankfully, to date not a single medical marijuana “dispensary” has opened in Massachusetts. We can only hope that the recreational pot business meets with a similar level of success.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has had to dismiss many applicants for medical marijuana licenses over issues ranging from inaccurate financial information to fabricated credentials.

Wait – you mean people who want to sell weed under the guise of medicine aren’t on the level? Say it ain’t so!

Massachusetts potheads are outraged that no medical marijuana dispensaries have opened more than two years after the voters approved it.

drugsNote that I didn’t say that medical professionals are outraged. If pot is truly the miracle drug that advocates claim it is, why haven’t doctors and nurses taken to the streets to protest this bureaucratic foot-dragging at the expense of their suffering patients? Why hasn’t the Massachusetts Medical Society taken out a full page ad in the Boston Globe?

Meanwhile, we are in the throes of an epidemic of opiate addiction. Granted, pot isn’t an opiate, but it has plenty of potential for abuse. Where’s the credibility in the message that it’s fine to get high on one type of dope but not another?

Because, let’s face it, it’s all about getting high. Weed activists argue that pot is akin to alcohol, which is legal and socially accepted. That comparison might work if it were socially acceptable to drink to the point of getting legless.

wineSocially acceptable drinking usually means a glass of wine with dinner or a couple of cocktails at a party. There’s no marijuana equivalent of nursing a drink over the course of an hour. And given that today’s hydroponically grown pot is many times stronger than the Mexican ditch weed most of us knew in our youth, all it takes is one or two hits and you’re wasted.

Another reason why no medical marijuana dispensaries have opened in Massachusetts is because the 2012 ballot question law that the voters approved had more holes in it than John Lennon hallucinated in the Albert Hall.

But never fear, Massachusetts state legislators have stepped up to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen with recreational weed.

Rep. Dave Rogers
(D-Belmont) and Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerset) introduced H.1561, a bill that would regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol for legal use by adults. A bipartisan group of 13 co-sponsors has signed on in support. The legislators claim that they simply want to make sure the law is properly crafted, which wouldn’t happen with a ballot question.

Well, that’s a relief.

Fortunately, some of the Commonwealth’s political heavy hitters have signaled their opposition to legalizing recreational use of pot, including Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Attorney General Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.
Also, all three of Wakefield’s state legislators – Sen. Jason Lewis, Rep. Paul Brodeur and Rep. Donald Wong – did not favor legalizing recreational marijuana when I put the question to them during a WCAT candidates’ debate last year.

Soon after the medical marijuana ballot question passed in 2012, municipalities across the state – including Wakefield – scrambled to zone any potential dispensaries as far away from businesses, schools and parks as possible. (An odd stance toward “medicine,” no?)

I recently spent a week in Colorado, where marijuana is legal for recreational use. But they apparently keep it well hidden, because despite days spent exploring Denver and other towns, I never saw a single pot store. I can only assume that wiser heads recognized that weed shops aren’t the face that they want to present to the world.

I did see a number of news stories on the issue while in Colorado. It seems that legal pot isn’t coming close to pulling in the tax windfall that was promised. And law enforcement officials in surrounding states are none too happy with Colorado’s law.

marijuana_ice_creamI also saw a public service announcement on a Denver TV station urging people to “use cannabis responsibly.” So you can start thinking now about how you’re going to explain that one to your children when legal pot hits the Bay State.

And there was also a news story on a Denver TV station about Ben & Jerry’s considering coming out with marijuana ice cream – because of course they are.

There’s always so much to look forward to in Massachusetts.

[This column originally appeared in the April 2, 2015 Wakefield Daily Item.]

30 Responses to “The high road to hell”

  1. Great article Mark!!! “Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall”! LOL! Where I live in Brockton, there is suppose to be a dispensary opening for medical pot this month…No word yet…I am not for legalizing recreational weed just for the fact that our roads are dangerous enough with drunk drivers….Adding impaired stoned drivers won’t help……..

    Tim Collins
    Brockton MA

    • 2 reggiewjr1

      Stoners are safer drivers, most stoners Burn Ride, but you never hear about them getting into accidents or running people down due to intoxication. I’m not saying I’m for impaired driving in anyway, but your assumption of things worsening due to legalized recreational weed is illogical to say the least

  2. 3 Joe Russo

    Compare marijuana to alcohol in an objective study and alcohol loses every time. Wake up in Wakefield please!

  3. 5 Joyce Keenan

    Dear Mark Sardella,
    As an ER nurse of twenty years, I would like to take this opportunity to educate you on marijuana medical and/or recreational.

    1. Find me one detox geared towards marijuana addiction and withdrawal.
    2. Find me one pharmaceutical company that is biting at the bit to produce a pill or injection that aids in marijuana addiction and withdrawal.
    3. Find me a documented overdose from marijuana.
    4. Find me a sober house or halfway house in Wakefield for marijuana detox, wait there isn’t one.
    We have 2 opiate detoxes, one located right across from the middle school. The old Boit home, second on Lafayette street and one alcohol detox on the lake ,how beautiful the Kelly house no one in there is detoxing from marijuana just alcohol.
    Alcohol withdrawal is lethal for chronic drinkers. It starts with the shakes, hypertension, blood pressures in the high 200″s then on to delirium tremors, abusing staff, biting hitting, yelling, ripping out IV”s and seizures come. Patient will get intubated, if they need a medically induced coma. Eventually they will die.
    Did you know the number one reason for disability in Massachusetts is alcoholism and opiate addiction.
    Methadone and Suboxone clinics are on the rise.
    Is there one for marijuana? I’d like you to find me one Mark .
    Yes alcohol is legal and people rarely do it socially anymore.
    People have seizures withdrawing from benzo’s which are Ativan,Xanax,Klonopin, people don’t die from opiate withdrawal, but they die from opiate overdose, secondary to respiratory depression which leads to cardiac arrest.
    Narcan will reverse it only if they’re just having a difficult time breathing, but once they convert into cardiac arrest they need the full on CPR and defibrillation.
    Not needed when falling asleep after you smoke a joint or eat a chocolate brownie Mark.
    Ive never taken care of a baby born addicted to marijuana only babies addicted to methadone, suboxone, heroin, and alcohol. Mark you never want to see that because, you’ll never forget.
    I have never forgotten it.
    So rather than this article maybe you should write an article about the benefits of marijuana for pain management.
    A young patient of mine moved to Colorado for legal tinctures of cannabis, and is now seizure controlled without the horrible side effects of FDA approved medications.
    The FDA knows what good marijuana can do. Problem is they cannot count every plant that is grown. Its all about the mighty dollar.
    Maybe consulting a medical professional or like me a seasoned nurse who worked in emergency rooms and have seen what these prescription drugs and legal alcohol has done to the population, you would probably think twice about the article you wrote. Marijuana is not DOPE.
    The problem is the doctors who carelessly write and have written these lethal prescriptions.
    Then the addict cannot afford the pills, doctor has shut them off, to expensive on the street. Then they steal from anyone. So on to Heroin.
    Now thank you FDA and
    Lets start there. Thats your highway to hell.
    Joyce Keenan, RN
    Please publish this article in your forum. Thank you

    Sent from my iPhone

    • 6 Mark Sardella

      The following response from three health professionals appeared in the April 16, 2015 Wakefield Daily Item.

      To the Editor:
      We are writing to address a recent response to an article regarding marijuana legalization. We wanted to address some of the issues raised, as public health professionals and individuals in this community dedicated to using data, science, and proven strategies to address substance abuse prevention.

      1) “Find me one detox geared toward marijuana addiction and withdrawal”:

      Science has proven – and all major scientific and medical organizations agree – that marijuana is both addictive and harmful to the human brain, especially when used as an adolescent. One in every six 16 year-olds (and one in every eleven adults) who try marijuana will become addicted to it. (Anthony, J.C., Warner, L.A., & Kessler, R.C. (1994) The Recovery High School in Beverly is an area expert addressing youth addicted to marijuana and the effects from withdrawal. In fact nationwide, more young people are in treatment for marijuana abuse or dependence than for the use of alcohol and all other drugs (Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment)

      2) “Find me a one pharmaceutical company that is biting at the bit to produce a pill or injection that aids in marijuana addiction and withdrawal”

      According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2012 there is a significant increase in the number of treatment admissions for cannabis use disorders and thus an increased need for medications that be used to treat this population. So far, no medication has been shown to be broadly and consistently effective; none has been approved by any national regulatory authority. “Buspirone is the only medication to date that has shown efficacy for cannabis dependence in a controlled clinical trial.” (Weinstein and Gorelick, NIH 2012)

      3) “Find me a documented overdose from marijuana.”

      Overdosing is taking more than the normal or recommended amount of something, usually a drug. Emergency room mentions for marijuana use now exceed those for heroin and are continuing to rise. (SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality,2010) Marijuana edibles (candies, cookies) are a common source of marijuana overdoses (including children). This occurs due to higher potencies, absorption through stomach vs. lungs and over ingestion due to increased time it takes to feel the effects. The link between suicide and marijuana is strong, as are car accidents – too many of which result in death.

      4) “Find me a sober house or halfway house in Wakefield for marijuana detox?”

      Most substance abuse treatment facilities and sober residences treat clients with a range of substance use disorders.
      As professionals in Public Health, Substance Abuse, and Healthcare we take the lead from experts in their fields. The Massachusetts Medical Society stated in January 2014, “We must remind patients of the Commonwealth that there is insufficient scientific information about the safety of marijuana when used for “medicinal” purposes. Patients should remember that marijuana lacks the rigorous testing of drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration; that claims for its effectiveness have not been scientifically proven; and, that it poses health risks of toxins and cognitive impairment, the last condition being especially risky for young patients.”

      Preliminary studies certainly show some of the potential benefits of Marijuana components. We don’t smoke opium to get the effects of Morphine. Similarly we don’t need to smoke marijuana to get its potential medical benefit. No modern medicine is smoked. And we already have a pill on the market available to people with the active ingredient of marijuana (THC) in it – Marinol. That is available at pharmacies today. Other drugs are also in development, including Sativex (for MS and cancer pain) and Epidiolex (for epilepsy). (Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Scientific Base)

      Today’s marijuana is 9 times more potent than what was available in the 1970’s. It is addictive and multiple pharmaceuticals are working to isolate components of the plant to develop into a drug approved by the FDA. Poison control hotlines/emergency rooms across the country are dealing with children who overdosed on food containing marijuana, and many of the occupants of the sober houses will tell you their path started with marijuana.


      Catherine Dhingra, MS, CPS
      Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator, Town of Wakefield

      Ruth L. Clay, MPH
      Health Director, Town of Wakefield

      Laurel Skinder Gourville, RN, MSN, CPNP
      Wakefield Board of Health

      • It only counts when it comes from your side? Those folks are funded by the government? Yep, you fake conservative! Those three you cite are funded by the government! Yep, and the money runs dry if there are less opiate addicts! Can’t have those with pain using a non-addictive substance, that would hurt funding dollars. Meanwhile doctors and nurses not on the government dole like Joyce Keenan speak and you ignore them. Mass Medical Society is a front for ADDICTION TREATMENT groups who are on govt. dole and want more addicts to fill the beds, get funding…

      • 8 Mark Sardella

        Mike, are you really saying that the Massachusetts Medical society and those in the public health field only pretend to be fighting addiction while secretly wanting more addicts in order to protect their funding? I’m told that paranoia is one of the side effects of marijuana use. Perhaps you should adjust your “dose.”

      • Ahhh, I think Dr. Sanjay Gupta is quite a responsible person who has come out strongly in favor of medical marijuana,,

        ” “Find me one detox geared toward marijuana addiction and withdrawal”:

        Ahh, once again,,, Marijuana has been shown to help with opiod addiction,, of course if people use marijuana instead of methadone pharmaceutical company’s wouldn’t make as much money,,

        But hey,,, I’m the kind of person who puts people ahead of profit,,,

      • 10 Mark Sardella

        Ahhh, here’s another quite responsible doctor who has a quite different view.

  4. 11 Jenna

    Legalizing regulated marijuana, similar to alcohol, would be a financial boon to the state. Many of the myths perpetuated about pot are just that, myths. Not a smoker, but not really worried about those who are willing to pay taxes to do so.

  5. 13 Jeffrey

    This is some of the most ignorant, biased and misinformed content I have ever had the displeasure of reading. Maybe you should spend some time with people who use this medicine properly before making such rash and snapping judgments
    If you had bothered to look into statistics regarding the opiate epidemic, states with Medical Marijuana programs have 25% less prescription related deaths.
    “Socially acceptable drinking usually means a glass of wine with dinner or a couple of cocktails at a party. There’s no marijuana equivalent of nursing a drink over the course of an hour. And given that today’s hydroponically grown pot is many times stronger than the Mexican ditch weed most of us knew in our youth, all it takes is one or two hits and you’re wasted.”

    Maybe to some people, but depending on the demographic, socially acceptable drinking is also getting blackout drunk and fighting people, but thats not everyone who drinks is it? There are many ways to ingest cannabis that help with a variety of conditions, and with genetics, many cannabis strains have low THC content so as not to get someone high, simply offering the benefits of the cannabinoids. A vaporis bag would also last an hour to nurse sometimes, or pacing yourself? You seem to be under this illusion that drinking is handled very respectfully while every cannabis user is simply trying to get as high as possible 24/7.

    You are unfortunately uninformed on medicinal cannabis and the culture itself, I really think you should look more into it.

    • 14 Mark Sardella

      I don’t know of any demographic where it is socially acceptable to get blackout drunk and fight people, but clearly we run in different circles.

  6. Wow. Just wow. You are pleased with the lack of dispensaries because you have the luxury of health to be so. I do not. I have watched my child suffer tens of thousands of seizures since the passage of this law that was so poorly implemented. Where is the outrage and concern for legitimate patients that are being denied access to this medicine?
    My daughters world leading epileptologist at MGH is supportive and is outraged at the road blocks for patients. Children and patients are dying while awaiting this medicine.
    We don’t keep oxycontin away from legitimate patients simply because there’s potential for abuse. If we closed everything that could be abused there would be no shopping malls or fast food restaurants.
    By all means though, let’s punish the innocent sick people to further perpetuate lies aand propaganda.

    • 16 Mark Sardella

      If marijuana is the miracle drug you believe it to be, let it go through the same rigorous FDA testing that all other medicines go through. Then let it be distributed by licensed pharmacies, just as all other prescription medicines are. The fact is, there are already pharmaceutical compounds containing marijuana’s active ingredients available to patients whose doctors believe they will benefit from them. But that isn’t really what this is about, is it?

      • You are entirely clueless. Just be thankful it’s not your kid asshole.

      • 18 Mark Sardella

        Compelling argument, John. Were you on the debate team in school?

      • 19 Luby

        I have much to say on this issue but I’ve learned not to argue points with people who are too narrow minded/arrogant to even consider the possibilities that our manifestation here on this earth did not need the hand of man, and the same source that created us created nature to feed, heal and nurture us.
        I however will pose this point to you… How many fda approved medications have been involved in deaths, class action lawsuits and patient injuries as such…? Let’s call it what it is, greed… Greed from pharmaceutical investors, manufacturers, …etc. Added to some what seems to be population manipulation as well as job security, knowingly passing drugs that are detrimental to other organ within our bodies and will in turn need more fda approved medication… Please sir, you Hippocratic view only tells me that you embrace wine with dinner, Advil or other pain relievers, anxiety meds, sleeping aids…etc and have no issue with the long term damage of toxins in the human body. This body which was created of the same “stuff” our nature was birthed from. There are many plant sources with which to the heal the human body… Same as our foods comes from the earth and not a laboratory… Asses yourself with not only common sense but with the truth we dwell on, we are not using our natural resources as we are meant to, for hoarding of our resources and the control, misinformation and manipulation of our natural healing plants its not for our benefit as a people but for the greed of those who stand to loose/ gain money…
        We have called this Plant a drug for so long that even intelligent individuals who see its benefits are afraid to acknowledge its benefits for fear of being ridiculed by people like you… No sir marijuana is not addictive, but we do embrace her benefits which manifest in many forms including but not limited to antianxiety benefits which being on this earth this days is welcomed wholeheartedly…
        Cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, and many other addictive substances are legal because they can be controlled, and invite other illnesses which then can be treated by more money making drugs…
        If all it takes is a seed, soil and water which is natural to our earth, not many can profit…but I knw that many can benefit. As intelligent beings we are we should be able to treat our environmentally, GMO induced laboratory made illnesses with that which we know is as safe as our naturally grown foods are for our nurturing…

      • 20 Mark Sardella

        If the high priest’s sermon is finished, I would like to respond, although it was hard to follow the ramblings. First, not everything “natural” is good for you. Tobacco is also a plant that comes from a seed. So is opium. Cocaine and alcohol can also trace their origins back to seeds. For more than a century, people argued that cigarettes weren’t addictive. Doctors touted tobacco’s health benefits. Advocates said these things and people believed them because they wanted to. People have always been quick to defend their drug of choice. It’s sad that they let any drug have so much power over them. I’ve been there. So spare me the supercilious lectures.

      • 21 Luby

        Lol… Its OK that u can’t understand me… I get it. No reason to get defensive or angry though… Relax i though we were having and intellectual discussion…. I guess as u stated before we do run in different circles… Good on me…
        Although I’m not a high priestess I am honored that u would hold me in such regard… N no I’m not high, n actually I don’t smoke regularly, but I reserve the right to do so i f I so choose to or if I needed to… Yes all of those above mentioned “drugs” substances are of nature but also altered and or changed in some way… Naturally they have purpose that the “civilized” humans have abused and thus changed its beneficial uses… Tobacco does not naturally have nicotine or arsenic… These sir are man made… Topically many of these have great purpose… If these were used as intended I guarantee u sir, we wouldn’t be were we r now as a society.. Remember most addicts, overdoses, or dangerous side effects have prescription and fda in common u know like Oxicontin, xanax…etc…etc…
        it’s too bad that all of the good info I posted was wasted on u.. But its OK, true knowledge is not for everyone… Just know that you have more in common with this plant than you will ever understand…
        Hope u have a peaceful afternoon…
        -take note you may benefit from this plant, for your anger and Sinicisms could be taken down a notch…. Breathe…

      • 22 Mark Sardella

        “True knowledge is not for everyone” applies to you in spades. I’m astounded that you don’t know that tobacco leaves naturally contain nicotine. That is ignorance on a scale that is literally breathtaking.
        Not surprising then, that you also think marijuana is safe and not addictive.
        I’ll go back to my “Sinicisms” [sic]. This discussion is a waste of time.

  7. Screw the 63% of voters who approved medical marijuana! Far better people suffer, and continue suffering because the Patrick administration blocked the implementation of a LAW he did not personally agree with. There are names for that type of leadership, but “democratic” is not one of them.

    As for the existing marijuana market in the Commonwealth–over 10% of Mass. residents use marijuana on a monthly basis. That is close to 700,000 people. Let’s imagine that they only use an average of 1 gram a month, and they are purchasing it at the going wholesale rate of $10 a gram. That is $7 million in untaxed and unregulated transactions, each month. Ultimately, the untaxed and unregulated marijuana market in Massachusetts is in the hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Far better we leave that utterly untapped than to collect just a large fraction of one estimate. Never mind the income taxes that marijuana growers and retailers will now have to pay–income that is presently untapped.

    On the other side of it, when 65% of Mass. voters approved of marijuana decriminalization, we immediately began saving money on law enforcement, to the tune of $17million a year. So we stand to turn the corner on $100M saved, since 2009, because arresting marijuana users is a bad policy that has never worked. Now we stand poised to bring a multi-million dollar annual market into the light, and you would rather we just keep it in the black market, allowing people to engage in economic activity that they don’t have to pay taxes on. That makes for very attractive investment opportunities, which is why we never see the marijuana market go away, no matter how many people get arrested.

    Rather than make a case against legalization, I would like to see a sane and rational defense of criminal prohibition as a means of dealing with the public health issue of substance use.

  8. You are an ignorant douche nozzle.

  9. Firstly, marijuana is not addictive. Secondly, the side effects of medical marijuana are far less than opiate based medication. I know this from personal experience but there are plenty of studies showing the benefits of medical marijuana. Of course, you choose to ignore those. If you have no interest in using it, fine, but you have no right to decide for others. Ricky is right. You are ignorant.

    • 28 Mark Sardella

      Firstly, you lost all credibility with your first statement. Marijuana is certainly addictive, and only those in the deepest state of denial would argue otherwise. I also base my opinion on personal experience and years of research. You’re right. I don’t have a right to decide for others, but I do have a right to say that I don’t want to create a society that makes it easier for people to sit on the couch and self-medicate instead of being productive citizens.

      • My credibility is just fine, as are my brain cells and my productivity. All the best with your sobriety and your opiate pain killers.

      • 30 Mark Sardella

        I don’t use opiate pain killers. Your baseless innuendo is noted, however.

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