Foreseen Circumstances

07Sep18

QUESTION: During the campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, how many times were we assured that legalization would never lead to increased use by teens?

ANSWER: About the same number of times we were told that legalizing weed would not result in more highway deaths in Massachusetts.

Go explain how that works to the families of the four teenage passengers killed in a crash in East Bridgewater last May after the 17-year-old driver of the car slammed into a tree on Route 106. Last week, Plymouth county District Attorney Timothy Cruz indicted now 18-year-old Naiquan D. Hamilton of Stoughton for “driving recklessly and under the influence of marijuana.”

And the first recreational pot store hasn’t even opened yet.

Recreational weed has been legal in Massachusetts since Dec. 15, 2016 but the opening of retail pot shops has been delayed while the state Cannabis Control Commission irons out rules for testing of all pot products. These testing labs have to be in place before any pot shops can open, much to the chagrin of the Cannabis Community.

But none of that means much to the four kids riding in that car with Hamilton last May: Eryck Sablah, 17, Nicholas Joyce, 16, and David Bell, 17, all of Stoughton and Christopher Desir, 17, of Brockton.

“But,” you say, “the driver was under 21 so it was still illegal for him to be using marijuana in the first place.”

Is your attention span really that far gone? Put down the bong and go back and reread the first two paragraphs.

The driver, young Mr. Hamilton, has a lot more to worry about than underage pot use. He now faces four counts of motor vehicle homicide by operating under the influence of marijuana and motor vehicle homicide by reckless driving.

So much for the idea that nobody ever died from pot.

In case you need more than the deaths of four teens to convince you that legalizing another recreational drug was a bad idea, how about the fact that The Wakefield Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted in April of 2017 showed that marijuana use by Wakefield Memorial High School students spiked by 10 percent from the previous year. Thirty percent of WMHS students reported having used marijuana in the previous 30 days, compared to 20 percent in 2016.

Still need more?

In the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 25.5 percent of Wakefield High School Students reported that they have driven a car while high on pot. And that’s just the number willing to admit it on a survey.

Youth Risk Behavior surveys are showing a similar pattern in communities all over the state since voters legalized recreational weed in 2016. Think there might be a connection?

I don’t think we can dismiss the fatal crash in East Bridgewater as “anecdotal.” It’s just those YRBS statistics becoming starkly, horrifyingly real.

More people die from alcohol-related causes than all drugs combined. The primary reason for that is the fact that alcohol is a legal intoxicant and therefore easily accessible.

So, let’s legalize another one! What could possibly go wrong?

Ask the families of Eryck Sablah, Nicholas Joyce, David Bell and Christopher Desir.

[This column originally appeared in the September 6, 2018 Wakefield Daily Item.]



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