Jason M. Lewis, Senator
Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health
Dear Senator Lewis,
A public health emergency was declared by Governor Deval Patrick on March 27, 2014, due to the dramatic rise in opiate abuse in Massachusetts (Cassidy, 2014). On the agenda was an addition $20 million for substance abuse prevention and treatment, taking Zohydro off the market, and allowing police officers to carry the anti-overdose drug naloxone. While these measures are a step in the right direction, the number of deaths to opioid overdose surged in December, from 60 in the previous month to 114 (MacQuarrie, 2015). The explanations offered include heroin mixed stronger opiates and stronger restrictions governing prescription painkillers. The sudden, inexplicable closing of the Andrew House Detoxification Center, a 60-bed facility on Long Island, certainly didn't help the situation any (Cullen, 2014).
One solution, which is already a part of the Massachusetts health system, is medical marijuana. A study published last year revealed that states enacting medical marijuana legislation between 1999 and 2010 experienced a 25% average reduction in opioid overdose fatalities (Bachhuber, Saloner, Cunningham, & Barry, 2014). The protection conferred by medical...
Unfortunately, the Department of Health and Human Services recently implemented restrictive regulations, including the requirement that patients and providers apply for certification online (Mass.gov, 2014). The first emails sent to applicants shocked the recipients because the subject line and content violated federal and state privacy laws, by revealing the purpose of the letter and private personal information (Lazar, 2015). Senator John F. Keenan reintroduced S.B. 1031 to the Joint Committee on Public Health last month, which severely restricts the number of medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation sites in the state, imposes a fee of $25,000 on farmers, and prohibits doctors from writing prescriptions for opiate addiction (Editors, 2013). Although the bill is unlikely to pass, it does represent efforts by some legislators and public health administrators to roll back medical marijuana policy progress.
As an advanced practice nursing professional, I cannot take a position on marijuana legalization, but a bill was introduced by Rep. Dave M. Rogers and Sen. Patricia D. Jehlen (2015) a few weeks ago to do just that [The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act (CRTA) of 2016, 2015]. Among the many justifications offered for CRTA passage, improved public health…
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